A new session for the California legislator started last Monday and already there is legislation being pushed to legalize online poker. Two southern California tribes are behind this push, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. These tribes are among the leaders of a new group called the California Online Poker Association.
This bill introduced by Sen. Louis Correa (D-Santa Ana) would allow select tribes and others to run online poker games that would be state sanctioned. For this right to run these online games, a percentage of revenue would go back to the state.
According to Correa, “People play offshore now. All of that money goes offshore. What we’re trying to do is take a whole exploding industry that is illegal [in California] and make it legal and tax it to fund state services.”
If this legislation gets passed this time, California would become the first state with legalized online gambling. Before that happens however, there is some opposition that has to be overcome and maybe some compromises along the way. Supporters claim this proposal will keep gambling money in the state of California while critics claim that the bill’s sponsors will have a monopoly on online poker.
Democratic Rep. Joe Baca is one of those who oppose the bill. According to him legalizing online gambling would threaten some of the 22,000 jobs the tribal gaming industry provides on California. Not only that, Baca believes the $450 million dollars yearly revenue the state receives from tribal gambling could also be threatened. Rep. Baca voted against a similar bill during last year’s session.
David Quintana, the political director of the California Tribal Business Alliance agrees that internet gambling is inevitable and will be coming to California but opposes this bill saying it would be “the equivalent of the state passing a bill to give Chevron the sole right to operate gas stations in California.”
We will have to see how the vote shapes up on this bill but there are others waiting to get their chance this year as well including the one sponsored by Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood who says he will introduce his bill, which was voted down last session, again this session as well.