Major California Newspaper Op-Ed Comes Out Against Online Poker

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A popular California newspaper has published an op-ed piece that comes out against any proposals by the state’s political or business factions to bring online poker to the state.

In an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, writer James B. Butler pens an op-ed entitled, “Worth A Gamble? Legislation Is Losing Bet For State.” He opens his opinion piece by saying, “Why would the state Legislature pass a bill that would increase the rate of crime, unemployment, welfare, homelessness, bankruptcies and suicide? The short answer: It is what the very rich and powerful gambling interests want them to do.”

Butler, a reverend who is the executive director of the California Council on Alcohol Problems and the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion, is expressing his opinion on Senate Bill 1463, the Gambling Control Act, introduced by Senators Rod Wright (a longtime online poker advocate) and Darrel Steinberg. The bill is an attempt by the California legislature to open up the doors of the Golden State for online poker for two years. After that two year period, there would potentially be a pathway to opening up the state to other forms of online casino gaming.

The proposed legislation, using the December 2011 ruling by the U. S. Department of Justice that online poker wasn’t covered by the Wire Act of 1961, also sets California up to join other states in a multi-state operation, although no provisions are made for international play.

Butler looks at several aspects in making his case against online poker in California. As to the potential revenue that may be drawn in by regulating and legalizing online poker, Butler claims that any monies earned by the state would be used in regulating the industry and treating those affected – problem gamblers and underage players – by the opening of what he calls “virtual poker parlor(s) in nearly every home, business, dorm room, school and library in California.”

“Did we really elect our representatives to cast aside all visions of a noble future in order that they may lead us into a dystopian society – a society characterized by human misery,” Butler asks. “Have we become so callous and cynical that we are willing to put aside the concepts of right and wrong for the promise of meager “profits” for state coffers?”

In his view, Butler believes that, rather than open up the state of California to online poker and further online casino games, the state should crack down on illegal operations outside of the United States and fine them heavily. “That would provide real consumer protection as well as reduce the risk of problem and pathological gamblers in our state,” he states.

A potential online poker market in California would be quite lucrative for any operators under the proposed Senate bill. It is estimated that approximately two million people from California made up the American market, the largest of any state, before “Black Friday” effectively shut down the U. S. online poker arena. Beyond the revenue that would be driven by these customers through taxation, companies licensed to offer online poker would also pay a hefty price tag (estimated at $250 million) to enter into the market.

There have been other voices that have disagreed with the potential for a California based intrastate online poker operation. Indian gaming interests have expressed the idea that they would be shut out of any potential California online poker outlet because they wouldn’t have the financial means to garner one of the licenses. The Indian gaming interests have stated that the proposed laws would only be beneficial to the powerful California card rooms that would have deep enough pockets to obtain a license and enter into the market.

In finishing his opinion piece, Butler says, “There are many reasons to oppose SB1463. It is bad economic policy, bad social policy and bad public policy. The costs would far outpace the benefits. It would not result in net job growth and would drain billions of dollars from other sectors of California’s economy, making our recovery even more slow and painful. Internet poker is a bad bet for California!”

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This article was in the Opinion section of the San Diego Union Tribune. You fail to point out that there was also an editorial by Roderick Wright supporting online gaming, in particular poker.

Earl Burton

Hello Chem,

Yes, Senator Wright had a piece alonside Rev. Butler. Sen. Wright has been a longtime advocate of online poker and is currently sponsoring CA’s bill to open online poker. Rev. Butler’s comments, however, were viewed as more important as it demonstrates what us online poker advocates have to deal with to get passage of the measure.



I do agree that the editorial by Rev. Butler does demonstrate the challenges facing the passage of online gaming. However, the title of your article implies that the San Diego Union Tribune itself is against online gaming. Every Sunday they do a point/counter-point set of editorials from outside writers. As far as I know, the UT has NOT taken a stand on one side or the other as your title implies.

Earl Burton


Good information to know for the future with the SDUT.


Sure ‘…the costs would far outpace the benefits…’ if all the hoopla towards legalizing online poker continues. The game is a small facet of the entertainment industry and the sooner it is given normal status the better. It can be condidered a form of lottery, or a fad that will dissapear in a few years. And it will take a fool to pay $250 million to enter the market in a single state.

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