Online Poker prospects in California looking up in 2015

California has been debating the issue of legally regulated online poker longer than any other US state, dating back to 2007; more seriously since 2009. According to one legal expert who has successfully predicted California’s annual stance on the issue before, 2015 should be the year for online poker regulation in the Golden State. At least one new bill is already expected to hit the table in the upcoming December session.

Earlier this month, hopes for legalization of online poker in California in 2014 died when Senator Lou Correa and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer both shelved their respective bills for the remainder of the legislative session. However, Jones-Sawyer is already talking about the re-introduction of his online poker measure in the December session, revealing an alteration to the controversial ‘bad actor’s clause’ that has contributed to its failure in the past.

“We must make sure that any ‘Bad Actor Language’ is written so that it is applied fairly, and avoids any possible future legal challenges,” said Jones-Sawyer. “It is my hope that during the next few months we can continue the dialogue with all the interested principals so that there is a clear consensus and mutual agreement as to who will be able to participate in providing internet poker to our citizens.

“We have come a long way,” he continued, “but we have to be patient, so we can get this right. Setting a standard in California that will be an example for the entire nation is my ultimate goal.”

Prior to Amaya Gaming’s acquisition of the Rational Group, the bad actor’s clause would have restricted PokerStars from participating in a California online poker market, along with any other international operator that violated the UIGEA after 2006. However, one tribal gaming group and two commercial card rooms have already teamed up with PokerStars to supply the software for their respective internet poker operations when the time comes.

Rival tribes and commercial operators didn’t want to compete with the likes of PokerStars, therefore the bad actors clause was a forced issue in previous bills. But with Canadian-based Amaya’s David Baazov now donning the CEO-crown of PokerStars’ parent company, the bad actor’s clause won’t be such a widely debated issue. With no substantiated resistance from the competition, a few simple adjustments to the text and PokerStars should be welcomed with open arms in California under Jones-Sawyer’s impending new bill.

I. Nelson Rose, an attorney and leading expert on gambling law, previously predicted that online poker didn’t have a chance in California’s 2014 session due to it being an election year. He was right about that, but projected a brighter future for 2015, saying there’s a “good chance” online poker will finally be regulated. According to Rose, it is a “purely political” issue.

“California has politically powerful gaming tribes and card clubs, who have nothing against Internet poker, as long as they are the ones to run it,” explained Rose. As for the politicians, Rose said they want major players like Caesars in the mix to increase the potential revenue. “Once a political solution is worked out, and it is not an election year,” predicted Rose, “the Legislature will approve Internet poker for California.”

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