New online gambling bills expected in California, Illinois

us-online-gambling-legislationIt’s that time of year again, when state legislatures line up online gambling bills much like those hooded figures with the flashing lifeclocks in Logan’s Run lined up to be ‘renewed’ on Carousel. (How’d that work out again?) Mississippi’s latest effort has already bowed out after the state’s politicians failed to act on moving the bill forward by last Tuesday’s deadline.

Things are looking more promising in California, where the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians is prepping their latest online poker bill. Like last year’s draft legislation, the Pechanga bill has the backing of at least seven other state tribes. Also like last year’s bill, the Pechanga’s 2014 effort aims to erect a digital firewall around the Golden State, barring its licensed operators from entering into any liquidity-sharing deals with other US states or international jurisdictions, thereby dooming Nevada’s minuscule online poker market to irrelevancy for eons to come. The strict ‘bad actor’ prohibitions from last year’s bill have also been retained.

Unlike last year’s bill, the Pechangas are now offering specifics on what it will cost to play in California’s online poker sandbox. According to eGaming Review, the bill calls for a $5m one-time license fee, while operators would be taxed at 5% of gross gaming revenue, a more favorable regime than the 10% proposed last year by Sen. Lou Correa’s SB678 legislation. There would be no cap on the number of licensees, who have to be either tribes or licensed card rooms that have been in business for at least five years. Unlike New Jersey’s setup, which allows up to five sites to piggyback on a single licensee’s permit, each California license would cover only a single poker site, The state’s 2014 legislative session gets underway February 21.

Illinois’ push to expand the state’s number of brick-and-mortar casinos is gearing up for its third kick at the can in as many years. Earlier this week, claimed Rep. Rob Rita (D-Blue Island) was prepping legislation that would authorize five new casinos, allow racetracks to add slot machines to their offering and allow casino licensees to apply for online gambling licenses.

Rita’s bill, which has yet to show its face in public, is reportedly a carbon copy of last year’s effort by state Sen. Terry Link, which originally included an online gambling component before this more controversial element was stripped out and reintroduced as a separate bill, none of which ultimately affected the fates of either brick-and-mortar or online gambling expansion. Gov. Pat Quinn has vetoed the state’s gaming expansion plans two years in a row and has offered no indication that he experienced any kind of Ebenezer Scrooge-like conversion since then. The legislature’s 2014 session wraps up at the end of May, after which the only hope will be the fall ‘veto’ session free-for-all.