Whether or not the state’s various stakeholders will decide to walk down that path remains an open question.
Below is a quick summary of the scheduled meetings, the primary purpose of each and a series of questions and answers related to the what to look for as we enter a critical phase for California’s ongoing attempt to regulated online poker.
The four hearings effectively work in concert to provide a political path forward for online poker in California.
4/27/15: This hearing is complete. Read a summary here.
5/20/15: This is an informational hearing that brings together the GO Committees for both the Assembly and Senate.
There will be no vote held at this hearing. The topic of the hearing suggests a broader focus beyond online poker, but expect certain aspects of the online poker debate – especially the issue of participation by tracks – to loom large.
6/24/15: Another informational hearing in front of the joint GO. Again, the hearing does not address any specific bill or result in a vote.
I’d expect a lineup and focus relatively similar to the hearing conducted last year. I’d also expect a lot of track to be laid regarding the needs and wants of the various agencies that would be involved in regulating online poker.
Critically, this hearing will provide one of the last, best chances to take the temperature of the various stakeholders and to handicap progress toward consensus.
7/8/15: Arguably the most critical of the four as it could provide a sense of what – if any – final bill is emerging from the process. While the meeting is currently scheduled to cover AB 9 and AB 167, that could change – as could the content of the two bills in the months between then and now.
In blunt terms, the existence of the hearings is a positive for California online poker, insomuch that an absence of the hearings would indicate a truly moribund process.
But the scheduling of the legislative events does not necessarily indicate that stakeholders have reached a consensus on if – and how – online poker should move forward in California.
Rather, they simply indicate a willingness by lawmakers to forge a legislative path for online poker should consensus be achieved.
It’s also worth noting that the meetings have been anticipated for several weeks and do not constitute a new development or signal some sort of behind-the-scenes breakthrough.
It appears that at a minimum there will be an audio stream for all of the events.
There’s a good chance that video streaming will be available for at least some of the events. The short-term televised schedule for the Assembly can be viewed here. Many California legislative hearings are broadcast via CalChannel here.
California currently has four live online poker bills. Of those four, two are bills with articulated visions of regulated online poker, and two are essentially placeholder – or “shell” – bills.
In order of introduction:
As the brief survey of the bills in play above suggests, there are two key sticking points – at least as stakeholders tell it – to consensus on how to regulate online poker in California.
The first – and foremost, according to most opinions – is what role California’s race tracks will play in regulated online poker.
A powerful coalition of California tribal gambling interests oppose the participation of tracks, arguing that licensing the tracks as online poker operators would represent an expansion of gambling. Unsurprisingly, California’s tracks hold a different view.
With the two camps sitting firmly entrenched at the two poles of a wide spectrum – and both lacking obvious motivation to compromise – this issue appears to be the primary stumbling block to legal online poker in California.
The second issue that dominates the public conversation around legal online poker in California is whether legislation should automatically disallow participation by so-called “bad actors” – individuals, entities and intellectual property involved in taking online wagers from the U.S. following the passage of the UIGEA.
The clause is generally understood to primarily – many would argue exclusively – target PokerStars.
In addition to the role of the tracks and the bad-actor issue, a number of other sticking points could emerge if the bill appears to have a serious shot at passage:
Along with the hearing and meeting dates are a number of key dates and deadlines to watch. Two things are worth noting:
So the dates below are less a collection of drop-dead dates (save for the final one, of course) and more of a collection of dates to watch for activity that might indicate progress – or a lack thereof.
There are a wide array of opinions regarding the value of the California market for regulated online poker:
|Source||Circa||Year 1 (mm)||Mature (mm)|
|NV model ‡||2014||$151||$210|
|NJ model †||2014||$125||$204|
My conclusion after surveying the various data available is that (base case) the market will likely generate about $215mm in revenue during year 1 and eventually ramp up to a number in the $300-$350mm range at full maturity.
Image credit: trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com.