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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Legalized Online Gambling Stays On Hold In California

Legalized Online Gambling Stays On Hold In California



One of a pair of bills drafted in an attempt to legalize internet gambling in California was put on hold last month, with many lawmakers taking the position there was not enough time left before the new year to refine the law to particular standards necessary to vote in affirmation of the legislation.  The bill was SB 1366, authored by California State Senator Lou Correa — the chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee.  That committee is charged with monitoring gambling in the State.
Online gambling has been a serious subject of debate in California for roughly five years.  There were only a few weeks left in the 2014 legislative session when lawmakers pushed to table SB 1366.  A second bill (AB 2291) that would seek to allow and regulate only online poker legislation has not been moved yet through the committee process and no hearing date has been set.
Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have already legalized online gambling, and California has discussed becoming the next state to jump on board for quite some time.  Yet, what appears to be legislative inaction has left the State without any clarity as to whether even legalized online poker (let alone all forms of online gambling) has a real likelihood of becoming a reality.
Among the reasons for optimism has been the presence of a number of lawmakers who support the measure, but roadblocks have been set for a number of reasons, including the presence of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.  The politically active Adelson has already contributed north of $300,000 to slow the legalization of online gambling over fears that the industry could harm land-based casino business, where Adelson has a heavy stake.  California may be looking to New Jersey, where Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which operates the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, just filed for bankruptcy.
The progress of turning either of the gambling-related California bills into law has also faltered due to disagreements over specifics in the bills.  For starters, a number of lawmakers are still fighting out old battles — a number of casinos and poker sites operated within California before authorities cracked down on them. Lawmakers now would like to outlaw those sites, including once-popular poker destinations like Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker.  Others, though, would prefer that sites like Full Tilt — which operates legally around much of the world — be able to participate in the applicable market.
Beyond that, there are a number of details that need to be resolved with California’s Indian casinos, of which there are dozens.  Those issues are not seen as impossible to negotiate, but lawmakers feel it will require more than a month to hash out.  Their argument that there is simply not enough time left in the year may be a valid excuse based on same.
At one point, momentum seemed strong for an online gambling bill to be passed in California in 2014, but that was somewhat stalled in late January when Sen. Roderick Wright was convicted of eight felonies, including voter fraud and perjury for lying about his district of residence.  Wright had been a vocal and active proponent of legalizing online poker in California, even adding his name as a sponsor of a piece of legislation.
The launch of online casinos in other states has been viewed as a pretty strong success in its first year.  While its brick-and-mortar casinos appear to be struggling, New Jersey began to provide licenses to a number of online casinos in 2014.  Some of the licenses are for online versions of brick-and-mortar institutions like Caesars, Harrah’s and others, which have provided those longstanding entities with new sources of revenue.  Popular international websites have also received licenses, such as 888 Casino.
888 Casino is one of the most popular and unique sites available around the world, and is especially popular in England, Ireland and Canada — many Canadian-specific casino review sites such as this one have given the casino strong reviews despite not having the same brick-and-mortar presence as some of the more established names in the industry.  Similar products are likely going to land in California at some point, but that will have to wait until at least the start of 2015.  Meanwhile, California will likely keep a close eye on New Jersey to see how the more established casinos fare for the rest of the year.
Darren Heitner is a lawyer and the Founder of South Florida-based HEITNER LEGAL, P.L.L.C., which has a focus on Sports Law and Entertainment Law.

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