The potential for immense revenue generation in a California online poker market has driven several major operators to partner with the region’s land-based gambling establishments, despite the fact that online poker is not yet regulated in the state. According to reliable sources, Churchill Downs is the most recent to join that list, teaming up with California’s Crystal Casino and Oceans 11.
The news broke on Friday, and was confirmed on Saturday by a source close to the industry. If California moves to pass online poker legislation, and voters approve the measure, Churchill Downs will provide the software for Crystal Casino and Oceans 11 to launch real money internet poker sites in the state.
Churchill Downs is the proud owner of one of the oldest and most famous gambling regimes in the United States, the Kentucky Derby. The company also owns and operates TwinSpires.com, a legal, US-regulated online horse betting site that caters to bettors in 38 states, including residents of California.
The online horse betting site has been in operation since May of 2007, and it’s no secret that Churchill Downs has been seeking to expand its iGaming offerings via entrance to the US online poker and casino market. Rumor has it a fully functional poker suite has already been developed, and is simply awaiting the right opportunity to be integrated.
It’s not certain why Churchill Downs hasn’t taken an opportunity to present itself in Delaware, Nevada or New Jersey, where online poker has been legally regulated since 2013. But it’s safe to assume that the potential market size in California, which is home to 3x the population of all three other states combined, has something to do with it.
Other Major Operators Contracted for California Online Poker
Churchill Downs is just the latest major online gambling operator to seek out partnerships with California’s land-based gambling facilities. Back in 2012, bwin.party was the first to arrange a binding agreement with the United Auburn Indian Community to launch internet poker in the state.
bwin.party is already an active operator in New Jersey, partnered with The Borgata to run BorgataPoker.com and NJ.PartyPoker.com. Having already established itself as a US-regulated online poker operator, bwin.party should have no trouble receiving a license in the Golden State when the time comes.
Amaya Gaming, owner of PokerStars parent company, Rational Group, has an agreement with California’s three largest card rooms, Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino and Hawaiian Gardens, as well as tribal casino operators that include the Morongo Band and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. But due to the possible inclusion of a ‘bad actors’ and/or ‘tainted assets’ clause in future regulatory guidelines, Amaya may or may not find itself eligible to participate in a future California online poker market.
Current California iPoker Legislation
There are several online poker bills floating through the state right now, but only one has moved beyond the initial voting phase. Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 431 is a shell bill, meaning there are a lot of blanks yet to be filled in. But the fact that it is the only online poker bill in the history of the state to be approved by the Assembly and referred to Governmental Organizations Committee is at least a good sign that legislators are working hard to make online poker happen in California.