For more than a decade, the state of California has looked at regulating online poker. The three major players in the gaming industry in the state – the powerful Indian casinos, the equally strong poker rooms and the major horse racing facilities – have long had animosities against each other. Those old grudges have raised their head again as the state looks to move forward with another gaming option – sports betting.
Sports Betting Passes through Committee
The California Senate Governmental Organization Committee passed a bill out of their group last week that would legalize and regulate sports betting in the state. Called the California Sports Wagering and Protection Act, or SCA 6, the bill sponsored by Democratic Senator Bill Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray, would change the constitution of the state to permit sports betting on professional and college sports at retail outlets and even online. The vote wasn’t even close, with the committee voting 9-3 to pass the bill along to the California Senate.
Estimates range from $500 million to $700 million as to the revenues of legalized sports betting in the state, something that would be a boon to not only the government but gaming outlets throughout the state. SCA 6 will be heading to the full Senate on June 9 (Tuesday) and, if it passes through the Senate, it would be up to Gray to work it through the House. Because it changes the constitution of the state, it requires passage by a two-thirds majority from both bodies.
It would not be over with at that point, however. SCA 6 would then go to Governor Gavin Newsom, who would then have to put his signature to the bill. After that, there is one final step – the voters, who would vote on the bill in November and must pass it for it to become law. If no other state would pass sports betting regulations between now and November, California would become the 23rd state to pass sports betting laws.
Two Other Factions Need to Be Satisfied – And They’re Not Happy
While passing SCA 6 sounds simple, leave it to California to make it more complicated. While the poker rooms are happy with the setup, the Indian casinos aren’t. Why? The Indian casinos, along with the horse racing tracks, would be the sole proprietors of sports wagering (the Indian casinos would also get the right to offer craps and roulette, something they do not have right now), but they would give up their exclusivity to table gaming in the state.
If the bill were to pass, the poker rooms would be allowed to offer “banked” games – games in which players play against the house. These cover some lucrative offering that currently only the Indian casinos can offer – blackjack, baccarat, three-card poker and pai gow. Along with their usual poker offerings, this would be a very lucrative change in the California poker room industry.
The sides are already lining up to fight this particular battle (the racetracks are staying on the sidelines, it seems). The Indian casinos are girded for battle, while the card rooms have drawn their line in the sand too. The tipping point may be who else is in this battle; all the professional sports leagues are on board with California’s passage of the bill, along with the major fantasy sports providers DraftKings and FanDuel. The addition of those power players may be enough to break through the logjam that has been the decade-plus battle between the gaming factions in the state of California.