Though many politicians believe that the chances for online poker to be legalized and regulated in the state this year are “dead,” that is not stopping one State Senator from continuing to fight. State Senator Lou Correa, author of Senate Bill 678, the “Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013,” is still tinkering with his bill, hopeful that it will be made into law within the next few weeks.
On Monday, Correa amended SB 678, making it an urgency statute. As such, it must be approved by two-thirds of both houses of the California legislature. If it is, it would take effect immediately after being signed into law by the Governor. Prior to this amendment, the bill needed only a majority vote to pass and could have had lag time after being given the ok by the Governor before taking effect.
In Article 10, Section 5 of the bill, Correa explains why an urgency statute is the way to go, writing, “In order to protect the interests of Californians who play Internet, poker games and to ensure that people play fair games, that the state realizes the revenues, and that suitable persons operate intrastate Internet poker games, it is necessary that this act take effect immediately.”
Essentially, he is saying that the longer California waits to act, the longer the state’s poker players will be at risk (from shady operators) and the longer the state’s coffers will hunger for online gambling revenue.
Correa also amended SB 678 to be severable, penning in Article 10, Section 2, “The provisions of this act are severable. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.”
In other words, one bad apple won’t spoil the whole bunch. If there’s an “invalid” part of the bill, it can be jettisoned without needing to trash the entire bill.
For a state that has such a strong poker industry, it has been a rough road for internet poker in California. Really, it is the strength of the industry that has caused the problems. There are multiple competing stakeholders that all make loads of money off of gambling in the Golden State: Native American casinos, horse racing tracks, and the California poker rooms. All want their piece of the pie, they have been unable to agree upon how to actually go about cutting it up. The tribal lobby has been particularly hesitant to legalize online poker, seeing it has a threat to their robust gaming revenue stream. Additionally, some past bills have attempted to keep tribal interest out of the online game altogether, something that obviously didn’t fly amongst Native Americans. The tribes have written their own bill in order to try to address all the issues.
There is also a third bill out there, waiting for action: SB 51,the “Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013,” which was created by Senator Roderick Wright, chair of the committee on Governmental Organization, the same committee in which Correa’s bill currently rests.