Steve Ruddock Online poker in California path forward

This is the year!

This is the typical refrain from optimistic California lawmakers, gaming interests, and analysts every Spring for over a half decade now. And every year when a bill fails to pass, the excuse train departs the station.

It was an election year. It’s complicated in California with all these diverse gaming groups. We need time to study the issues further.

It should come as no surprise that 2015 is “the year” according to many.

Where California internet gambling stands now

2015 has produced more online poker bill options than any other year. And lawmakers certainly have a diverse group of online poker bills to choose from.

So far lawmakers in California have introduced four online poker bills during the current legislative session, including two very detailed but highly incompatible bills (one from Assemblyman Mike Gatto, AB 9, and one from Assemblyman Reggie Jones Sawyer, AB 167), as well as the framework for what is being called “compromise bills” by Assemblyman Adam Gray and State Senator Isadore Hall III – both Gray and Hall chair their respective Governmental Organization Committees, which has oversight over online poker.

Other than the sheer number of bills to choose from, California is still in the starting blocks when it comes to actually passing an online poker bill. Even though they’ve been at this since 2008/2009, California has never even advanced an online poker bill out of committee.

What still needs to be done

In order for an online poker bill to pass, the legislature will need to hold committee hearing(s) followed by said committee passing (hopefully) one of these bills.

If this happens, the next step is for the bill to pass its “house of origin” (depending on where the bill was introduced – this is either the Assembly or the Senate).

From there, and remember an online poker bill has never even made it to this stage in California, both branches of the California legislature would need to pass the same version of the bill.

Finally, provided all of the above comes to fruition, the bill would land on the desk of Governor Jerry Brown to be signed into law.

But as always, time is of the essence.

Deadlines and the legislative process

Even though California legislative sessions run for two years (the current session is the 2015/2016 session) bills still have to go through a mandated legislative process each calendar year, which includes deadlines for introduction, committee assignment, and mandated milestone deadlines.

As April nears, one of these milestone deadlines is already fast approaching.

The dreaded “house of origin” deadline

The California legislature is about to go on its Spring recess which means any further online poker talk will have to be put on hold until April 6, when the Assembly and State Senate reconvene.

Once the legislature returns, they will only have until June 5 (just two months) to hold hearings and pass an online poker bill out of committee and through the bill’s house of origin in order to meet this first legislative deadline.

There are commonly used legislative ways for a bill to pass after this point, such as the “erase and replace” tactic which you can read about here.

The rapidly approaching deadline is not a good sign for online poker (especially with no hearing scheduled, and the Hall/Gray bills little more than two sheets of paper of abstract ideas).

Nor is it a promising development when you consider California lawmakers’ fondness for the “we need to take our time to make sure we do this right” justification for why previous legislation missed its deadlines and died in committee.

Is 2015 really THE year?

Last year the mantra from many online poker advocates was 2015 will offer a better chance of passage, since 2014 was an election year, in which a contentious, hot-button issue like gaming expansion is unlikely to move forward.

“Election years” are one of the most convenient political excuses for elected officials to get nothing done, and since they occur biannually, not a whole hell of a lot gets done – ever.

So, with 2016 also being an election year, 2015 is seen as California’s best chance to pass an online poker bill in the foreseeable future.

But the problem doesn’t seem to be the legislature. The problem is getting California’s disparate gaming entities on anything resembling the same page.

Steve Ruddock
Steve Ruddock - Steve is one of the most recognizable names in the online poker media space. He brings his deep knowledge and equally deep well of opinions to his coverage at CaliforniaOnlinePoker.com.