Poker News

In an odd dichotomy that seems to not only defy logic but also seems to be rampant, a survey of voters in California have different opinions on two forms of gambling that may make their way into the state.

According to a story in the Riverside Press-Enterprise written by Jim Miller and Ben Goad, respondents to a Field Poll were asked about two hotly debated gaming topics, the possibility of opening up the state for sports betting and the chance of regulating and opening online poker to boost the state coffers. 997 registered voters were surveyed on the two subjects and the poll’s results were based on a random subsample of 512 respondents with a ±4.5% margin of error. With both subjects the basis of pending legislation in the California General Assembly, the outcome was a bit surprising.

When it comes to the question of legalizing sports betting in California, 58% of the respondents were in favor of opening up the Golden State while 35% were against such action. This is an interesting outcome in that, under current laws, California isn’t legally allowed to accept sports betting in the state. The federal government currently allows only four states – Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware – to offer sports betting, although the state of New Jersey is considering challenging that federal ban so their casinos can offer sports betting.

Online poker regulation seems to be losing some support in the state, however. Asked about the legalization of online poker in the state, only 49% of the respondents were in favor of such legislation. With 45% of those surveyed opposing such laws, the 4% difference was within the margin of error and can be concluded that there is a split decision on the online poker question.

Miller and Goad point out that this is a drop in public opinion over the past few months. In September 2011, a similar poll was conducted by the same research organization that found support for online poker legislation at 53%. What might be the most shocking is that the opposition seems to have increased since that September poll; back then, only 41% of those surveyed were against online poker regulation.

The battle lines on these topics have already been drawn, as pointed out by Miller and Goad in their article. The California Online Poker Association, a group comprised of many of the major card rooms in the state, support legislation to open up California for intra-state online poker, but a majority of the major Indian tribes are aligned against it, believing that it will pull business away from their casinos. (In an oddity, Miller and Goad state that COPA ran its own survey last month that showed 76% supporting the regulation and taxation of online poker.)

California isn’t the only state where there are differing opinions on whether the government should open up for sports betting or getting into the online poker business. In New Jersey, a May poll by Farleigh Dickinson University of 797 residents showed similar results to those in California. With the question of online gaming (including poker), 58% of the respondents were against the idea while 31% were in favor of opening intra-state poker. When it came to sports betting, however, 60% of respondents were in favor of the state moving forward, with only 26% against the issue.

New Jersey currently is weighing its options regarding opening up for intra-state online poker and has changed their constitution to allow for sports betting in its Atlantic City casinos, dependent on a challenge to federal law.

Miller and Goad opine that the pressure on California’s legislature is due to the possibility of millions in revenues that would come into the cash-strapped state with either gaming option. The director of the Field Poll, Mark DiCamillo, tells the authors that the respondents separated sports betting and online poker due to the factor that online poker allows players to play – and potentially lose – huge sums from their own homes, while sports betting would actually require people to go to a California casino or authorized outlet to participate in the activity.

With online poker and sports betting legislation in California both currently stalled at the gates – and with the federal government unlikely to make any movement on the issue until 2013 – it could be some time before anything is decided. It is still interesting, however, to see how people separate out one form of gambling as something necessary while punishing another form of gambling as being wrong.

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