It’s been a long time coming but state-sanctioned, legal online poker will be a reality in California – and sooner rather than later.
In discussion for much of the past decade the question of allowing online poker sites to be regulated and legally run in California has mostly been a matter of when, not if.
Given that it’s now 2015, though, it’s taken longer than expected. But now with legislation on the brink of being pushed through state legislature we can start to prepare for the next phase – regulated, licensed online poker in the State of California.
Just what exact shape it might take is still to be determined. Invested parties like Tribal authorities, race tracks and card rooms will all get their fair say as will the online poker sites looking to set up their businesses.
Whatever the final arrangements the impact of online poker in California will be an enormous one with millions of potential players and expected yearly revenue for the state in the multi-millions.
Jobs will be created, tax revenue will flow and the entire state will benefit from a booming and well-regulated industry.
A Brief History of California Poker
Despite not having a regulated online poker industry yet California is one of the States with the longest and most storied histories with the game.
Poker has also never been “illegal” in California, either live or online. And card rooms have been around in California since it became a state way back in 1850.
It’s an important part of California culture even with well over a 100 card rooms across the state, countless appearances in Hollywood movies and TV shows and a true legacy as a great American pastime.
Because of the large number of parties involved, however, getting online poker off the ground in California has been a trickier task. Dozens of Native tribes have negotiated compacts with the State of California to operate brick-and-mortar casinos on tribal land and will be intricately involved with online poker as it moves forward.
So will the Calfornia State government, racetracks and various outside operators such as PokerStars that have negotiated their own partnerships with local Native tribes.
PokerStars specifically has formed an agreement with the Morongo tribe to provide online poker services once regulation is passed although a “bad actor” clause – intended to punish poker sites that operated in the US market post-UIGEA in 2006 – is still a sticking point for legislation.
Ultimately, however, the net benefits to the State far outweigh the small details so a full online poker bill – likely a fleshed out version of AB 431 – should be forthcoming.
What to Expect from California Online Poker
When the final bill is past you’ll likely see 5-6 immediate offerings pop up for State residents and visitors. Big international poker companies and networks, like PokerStars, 888 and PartyPoker, should be involved early on thanks to their respective agreements with California tribes.
Local tribes and casinos will also likely provide their own offerings as will some racetracks.
Much like other regulated markets including New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware online poker sites will likely only be available to players physically living in California or visitors within state borders – at least at first.
An inter-state compact to share player pools – much like the one signed between Nevada and Delaware – will also likely follow, although with a much bigger population base in California to start with player liquidity should be better regardless.
California poker players can expect a similar quality poker experience to those already online, and if PokerStars is involved early they’ll benefit from its world-best software as well.
A full range of poker offerings should be available quickly with a variety of poker games, stakes and competition that will satisfy most poker players, casual or professional.