Steve Ruddock online poker California 2017

2016 was a tumultuous year for online poker in California.

This doesn’t bode well for online poker efforts in 2017, according to one California assemblyman.

Everyone take an online poker breather

In an interview with Matthew Kredell, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer indicated he believes the roller coaster ride of 2016 will have a hangover effect this year.

Jones-Sawyer has introduced the only online poker bill of 2017 (to this point), but he doesn’t seem optimistic about its chances.

Jones-Sawyer said:

“Obviously, we’re not going to put anything across the desk now. If you look at the Assembly, we have other big things such as the transportation bill to focus on.

This would not be a good year to put something controversial in. I think the ability to work out something next year has a bigger chance if we do some of the come-together healing things right now.”

According to Jones-Sawyer, last year’s harried efforts left some stakeholder coalitions feeling like wild animals backed into a corner. This is why Jones-Sawyer is hoping to slow everything back down.

“Now we have to go back to the same methodical strategy as before, but we may have to go even slower because you don’t want to have people pushed up against the wall,” Jones-Sawyer said. “That’s when people start to get a little nervous and strained.”

And this seems to be what happened at the end of 2016 in California.

Two swings and two misses in 2016

Despite a growing coalition behind a favorable-to-PokerStars bill sponsored by Assemblyman Adam Gray, PokerStars and its allies were unable to overcome the opposition of a coalition led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

And in a case of turnabout being fair play, the Pechanga coalition took its own swing at getting a bill passed. That bill would have kept PokerStars out of the California online poker market for at least five years.

Pechanga’s efforts also came up short.

Interestingly, Gray was also behind this effort. Gray demonstrated that he doesn’t have an intractable position when it comes to suitability, other than a desire to pass an online poker bill.

But Gray’s ambition to get a bill across the finish line may have done more harm than good.

Coalitions question if they can trust Assemblyman Gray

Gray’s abrupt reversal on the issue of suitability led to both coalitions having their backs against the wall at different points last year, as Jones-Sawyer put it. Confidence and trust in Gray, the chairman of the Governmental Oversight Committee, seems eroded. That skepticism has now turned to the latest bill’s author.

As Jones-Sawyer told Online Poker Report, meetings this year have been more about him and whether or not the stakeholders “trust me to do the right thing.”

Don’t believe the hype

In addition to a legislative hangover, there are also rumors PokerStars might be having second thoughts about California. There is also speculation that its coalition may be fracturing.

According to Eric Hollreiser, the vice president of corporate communications for Amaya, this is not the case. Hollreiser asserts PokerStars remains very much committed to California.

“Absolutely,” Hollreiser said of PokerStars’ dedication to California. “California is one of the best poker markets in the world.”

Hollreiser is also confident an online poker bill will pass at some point.

“Regulation of online gaming is inevitable because it protects consumers who are already playing online with unregulated operators and creates tax revenue from the existing activity,” Hollreiser said.

However, he did echo some of Jones-Sawyer’s statements, particularly when it comes to having willing participants.

“California will benefit from this movement when there is a true desire to create a safe, regulated marketplace that protects consumers and creates tax revenue,” Hollreiser said. “Until then … it’s politics as usual.”

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