L.A. Times Editorial Board Supports Legalizing Online Poker

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The Los Angeles Times is fully aboard the online gambling train, publishing an editorial Saturday in which the Times Editorial Board calls for the regulation and licensing of all internet gaming sites. Daily fantasy sports are the hot topic nowadays in the online gambling (or skill game, depending on your position) arena and several state attorneys general, including those in New York, Texas, and Illinois, have declared the popular games illegal. The Times believes that blanket bans, though, are an ass-backwards way of dealing with the industry, DFS, poker, or otherwise.

Much of the editorial details what has been going on lately with daily fantasy sports, but eventually gets to the major point:

The smart approach is to regulate the leagues, ideally within the context of a comprehensive approach to online gaming. That way the state can protect consumers against fly-by-night sites while requiring companies to use sophisticated technology to block minors and problem gamblers, pay fees that can be used for oversight and enforcement, and guard consumers against insiders competing unfairly for jackpots, as both FanDuel and DraftKings were accused of allowing last year. None of those protections is assured online today.

It continues:

California lawmakers have been trying for years to create this sort of framework for online poker, only to be thwarted by internecine battles among the state’s licensed gaming businesses. Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) is now championing a bill to license and regulate just the daily fantasy sports operators, but his bill is likely to run the same gantlet of resistance from Indian tribes, racetracks and card clubs. The argument for setting up a safer environment for fantasy sports games applies in spades to online poker. It’s time for the Legislature to stand up to the competing gambling interest groups and adopt safeguards that apply across the online gaming boards.

“Resistance” from tribes, racetracks, and card clubs may be putting it lightly. No matter how reasonable and compromising online gambling bills have been in California, there are always factions that dig their heels in and refuse to budge on certain regulations. Most notable is the “Cali 7” group, which includes, in alphabetical order, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. This group of tribes is very politically active and wants to include a “bad actor” clause in any online gambling legislation (a not-so-subtle attempt to keep PokerStars out of the market and reduce competition) as well as prevent pari-mutuel facilities from being able to apply for a license.

Earlier this month, the “Cali 7” was able to influence the California House’s Governmental Organization (GO) Committee, getting it to take both GO Committee Chairman Gray’s AB 147, an online poker bill, and AB 1441, a sports betting bill, off of a hearing’s agenda. The only bill that was voted upon at the hearing was Gray’s AB 1437, the “Internet Fantasy Sports Game Protection Act.” That one easily passed through the committee by a 18-1 vote.

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