California online poker dead for 2015, pointless sports betting bill introduced

california-online-poker-deadCalifornia has officially given up on passing online poker legislation in 2015 but somehow found the time to introduce a purely symbolic new sports betting bill.

Friday marks the close of the 2015 California legislative session, and with it goes the hope of passing any of the state’s competing online poker bills this year. California’s stakeholders were never on the same page, with some tribes pitted against other tribes over the participation of Amaya Gaming’s PokerStars, and some (but not all) tribes against the participation of state racetracks.

Matters weren’t helped by upheaval at the California Gambling Control Commission, which lost its chairman and two commissioners in rapid succession, with some members leaving under considerably less of a cloud than others.

Despite a symbolic victory in May, which saw the state’s first favorable committee vote on an online poker bill, this was only possible because Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 431 contained no specifics whatsoever and served only as a means of keeping legislative hopes alive so stakeholder negotiations could continue.

With California done, Pennsylvania remains the last hope for legislative progress in 2015. Like California, Pennsylvania has seen multiple online gambling bills introduced this year, yet partisan squabbles between the Democratic governor and the GOP-controlled legislature have delayed passage of a new state budget by two months and most observers are skeptical that online gambling revenue will have a role to play in whatever compromise ultimately emerges.

As one door closes in California, politicians attempt to open a window, only to find it locked from the other side. On Thursday, Assemblyman Gray gutted the contents of a proposed bill to combat underage alcohol consumption in favor of language that would allow the state’s tribal casinos, card rooms and racetracks to offer legal online sports betting.

Gray’s AB 1441, aka the California Interactive Sports Wagering Consumer Protection Act, would require licensed operators to process all bets “only using telephone, computer, or another method of electronic wagering communication.” The bill is otherwise devoid of substantive detail (tax rates, license fees, etc.).

Bottom line, the bill clearly states that none of its provisions mean diddly until the federal government lifts or amends the 1992 PASPA sports betting prohibition, and well, just ask New Jersey how much progress it’s making on that front.

This isn’t the state’s first kick at the legal sports betting can. Former state Sen. Rod Wright made several attempts to pass sports betting legislation before he left politics (or was forced to leave), but his most recent effort died in 2013 when SB 190 failed to make it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee.