California Moving Closer to Legalizing Online Poker


They say that innovation is ahead of regulation these days. That’s proven to be the case in many states with Uber, Hello Alfred and now Filld. While this is new to many realms, it’s not new to gaming where the innovation of online poker has been waiting for regulation to catch up. In California, it might finally be happening.

There is a constant battle between government and the world of online poker as they are still figuring out how to regulate the game. Some states have been going through this for years with California serving as one of the best examples. They’ve been tied up in litigation for nearly a decade with minimal progress. However, some recent developments indicate that things seem to be moving – allowing online poker to become legal – but players shouldn’t hold their breath just yet.

The state of California voted unanimously in support of a bill organized and put forth by Adam Gray, which is just the first step necessary to move towards legalization. The vote returned an 18-0 count to provide unanimous passage. Oddly enough, the main opponents to this bill previously had been the horse racing industry. However, Gray stated that this issue has been put aside.

Originally, representatives of the horse racing industry in California were concerned that they were being shut out of the poker market. Obviously, there’s plenty of revenue to be had in online poker – especially in a market where the floodgates could open after it’s legalized – and those in the horse racing realm didn’t want to miss out. However, the current legislation has allowed for a $60 million subsidy to be shifted towards the racing industry in exchange for them giving up their rights to operate in the poker market.

As usual, money helped bridge the gap. Although it may look like a little bit of greasing, that money will be put towards creating more races in the state of California, improving tracks and taking care of jockeys with benefits and pensions. More of those types of “subsidies” may be necessary to get this bill to the finish line.

With the horse racing interests out of the way, that leaves the “bad actors” provision as the main hurdle to overcome. In many ways, this is simply pushback from the tribal division in the gaming realm as they view the online world as a significant competitor. Gray has been meeting with the tribal divisions on a regular basis and is confident that they’ll get on board soon.

What’s next for the bill is to get approval from the Appropriations Committee before heading to the full Assembly. Until there is full support from all of the tribes, though, they likely won’t be taking this bill much further. It has to pass by a two-thirds vote to reach the Senate.

If (eventually) successful, this would be the fourth state to legalize online poker behind New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. However, the regulation has to catch up to the innovation before players can get back to participating online.