California Online Poker Bill SB 678

By John Mehaffey

Update: This bill has been re-introduced by Lou Correa for the 2014 legislative session and is now SB 1366 .

California Senator Lou Correa introduced California SB 678 on February 22, 2013. The bill is titled the Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013. The bill is sponsored by a group of tribes led by the Sam Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

The bill would allow California gaming companies to offer online poker within the state. It would not legalize any other forms of online gambling, though online horse racing is already legal in California.

The bill would require financial safeguards to ensure player funds were safe. It would also make the minimum age to play online poker in California 21 year old. While this mirrors other state’s legislation, it goes against the minimum age of 18 that a number of tribal casinos and the state’s horse racing industry allow. It also requires players to be physically located within California while seated at a real money table. Location and age verification services would be required to guarantee that all players that attempt to play online poker in California are legally allowed to play.

There is also a bad actor clause.  Any gaming company that has violated federal law would be excluded.

The bill also addresses an issue with internet cafes that has already become a problem in California. No business would be allowed to use a business model that provides computers for the sole purpose of online poker or other gambling games.

Problem gambling information must be prominent within the online poker room’s website and software. These options include player loss limits, self exclusion and cool off periods.

There are two other online poker bills up for consideration in California during this legislative session. California State Senator Roderick Wright, a proponent of gambling expansion in California, introduced SB 51 that would allow card clubs, tribal casinos, racetracks and online horse racing operators to offer online poker. A different bill has been introduced by different tribal casino operators that would give most of the online poker operations to reservation casinos.

See also: SB 51 and the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2013.