Sneak Peak at Proposed California Online Gaming Legislation

California is no stranger to gaming. Having long ago embraced card rooms and Indian tribe-based casinos throughout the state, the Golden State is well aware of the revenue that online gaming could add to its struggling economy, and the California legislature will receive another opportunity to move forward with intrastate online poker in the near future. The California Online Poker Law Enforcement Compliance and Consumer Protection Act has undergone legislative analysis, and the draft of the bill has now been released to the press via IGaming News.

The draft is dated January 15, 2009 and is careful to make a distinction between intrastate gaming within the state of California and the federal laws like the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, noting that intrastate wagering is not considered “illegal internet gambling” under the UIGEA. The act also calls for the Gambling Control Commission and the Bureau of Gambling Control within the Department of Justice to summarize intrastate regulations for California.

With that, the act states the reason for its necessity and urgency: “In order to protect the millions of Californians who play poker online, and allow state law enforcement to license, regulate internet poker sites that can ensure these consumer protections…”

Internet poker licenses would be issued to gaming establishments and California tribes who currently possess gaming licenses within the state, and all services would be provided and regulated within the borders of California. Numerous safety and security issues are addressed in the act’s sections, such as protecting players’ private information from identity theft and providing information on gambling problems.

Evident in the four pages of legalese is the care with which the act will stay outside the boundaries of applicable federal laws and work with the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure its legality. But what stands out even more boldly is the first part of Section 1, which reads, “Leading gaming consultants estimate that in 2008 United States citizens wagered more than ten billion dollars ($10,000,000,000) online at off-shore, non-United States Internet gambling Web sites, that this amount is likely to grow steadily over the next decade and that every week more than 1,000,000 California citizens play poker on the Internet.”

The numbers are important, as the possible revenue for California is a key component to the passage of the legislation. The state has experienced notable financial difficulties of late, and any additional revenue – especially that which could register in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars – could be quite appealing. And to a state that already regulates and taxes gaming activities, the addition of online poker seems even more reasonable.

It is speculated that the California Online Poker Law Enforcement Compliance and Consumer Protection Act could be introduced to the state legislature within the coming weeks.

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