Marty Derbyshire

Will November’s midterm elections mean a step forward for online poker legislation in California?

Online poker advocates should not get their hopes up. However, the leaders in the fight to legalize and regulate online poker in the Golden State will likely be returned to Sacramento to continue their efforts.

The state came as close as ever to passing online poker legislation in 2016. Then, initiatives crashed and burned on the issue of which entities are suitable to be online poker operators in California. Lawmakers and stakeholders have long argued over whether a site like PokerStars should be allowed in, considering it accepted US customers after federal laws were put in place to prevent it.

The state’s commercial cardrooms, Native American casinos, and horse racing facilities have stood on various sides of the issue. However, the issue remains unsolved. Lawmakers shelved the online poker legislation issue entirely this year.

Now, let’s look at some key players to keep or vote into office for poker legislation to move forward.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer

Earlier in 2018, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer suggested online poker could be attached to sports betting legislation and passed in 2019.

An assemblyman since 2012, Jones-Sawyer has run unopposed in the past two California State General Elections. In June, Jones-Sawyer and fellow Democrat Leslie Hagan-Morgan ran unopposed in the top-two primary election.

Jones-Sawyer won 76.8 percent of the vote and will run unopposed in November. Therefore, he appears headed back to Sacramento and will be free to pursue the idea.

Assemblyman Adam Gray

Also an assemblyman since 2012, Adam Gray has been equally important to the fight for online poker legislation in California. He’s also behind the push for legal sports betting.

Only Libertarian candidate Justin Quigley stands between Gray and another election victory in November. However, Gray won the top-two primary in June with 99.89% of the vote, making his return to the state legislature almost guaranteed.

With two of the state’s top online poker advocates likely to be back in Sacramento after the election, only the thorny issue of operator suitability remains in the way.

A new California Governor

However, any and all legislation will need the signature of a new governor. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown is not running for re-election due to term limits.

Former San Francisco Mayor and current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is running for the Democrats. Former lawyer, investment counselor, real estate manager, and conservative radio talk show host John H. Cox is running for the Republicans. Cox has run for office unsuccessfully in Illinois three times. Additionally, he briefly sought the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

Online poker doesn’t appear to be a current campaign issue. Neither candidate has said much about it.

Marty Derbyshire
Marty Derbyshire - Martin Derbyshire is a veteran of the world of poker and gambling, having worked as a reporter, producer, and editor in the industry for more than a decade. He has traveled the globe interviewing high-profile personalities and contributes to a number of publications, including USPoker.com, PlayCA.com, and PlayNJ.com.