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Cardroom and online poker are both hugely popular in California, with the number of Californians playing poker online outstripping any other state in the US. Could it be the next state to legalise online poker? It certainly looks that way for 2015 but that doesn’t mean it will all be smooth sailing.
Here’s our run down of the legal situation and what legislation could mean for online gambling in the state.
The law as it stands
Although there’s currently no federal law prohibiting US players from playing poker online, the situation is more complicated state by state. No part of Californian law directly addresses online poker, but the restrictions on the game in general do apply to the online game too.
This means that real money poker games on and offline are only legal if the operator’s fees are fixed before play rather than being calculated based on the players’ bets or winnings.
But, as most online gamblers know, nearly every operator out there calculates their commission proportionally.
This doesn’t, however, mean that Californians can’t access and register with online operators. In fact, it’s currently quite easy to gamble online on offshore sites and the chances of being reprimanded for it are slim.
Although these operators are as yet unlicensed in the state, they are not technically illegal to play on and do accept Californian players. There is, however, reason to be cautious regarding the legality of receiving payouts from the sites.
Regulating the industry could in fact bring an estimated $200m of tax to the state given that online poker is being played regardless of the law.
Several bills have been introduced in favor of legalising online poker in California so far. But as such a lucrative industry, who should be in control of its regulation?
The AB 167 California Online Poker Bill says that:
- Card clubs, Indian tribes and racetracks could offer online poker sites;
- Taxes of 8.5% would be taken from licensing fees;
- Operators would pay a $10,000,000 one-time licensing fee.
The AB 9 Internet Poker Consumer Protection Bill proposes:
- Card clubs and tribes could offer online poker;
- First deposits would have to be made in person and thereafter electronically;
- An Internet Poker Fund would be established to collect taxes and fees from offshore sites.
The AB 431 Bill is also being put forward, but the details of the proposal are as yet unknown.
The main problem that divides votes is the criteria for eligibility as a licenced poker operator.
The legalisation and regulation of online poker is a hot topic in California right now and there’s certainly an air of momentum on the issue.
This launch follows PokerStars’ demo in favour of legalisation in California’s capital, Sacremento, with the help of stars Daniel Negreanu and Jason Somerville. The event coincided with the passing of AB 431 through its first stages and the Los Angeles Times’ decision to publish a pro-legalisation piece.
But, this doesn’t mean that the movement towards legalisation isn’t being met with some opposition. A recent radio ad campaign created by the Viejas Casino in California branded operators like PokerStars as corrupt and urged listeners to lobby their state representatives to oppose the bill.
A reputation for poker
California has a world-famous reputation for poker, arguably even moreso than its neighbour Nevada, so it’s surprising that the game hasn’t been legalised there for online play already.
The state plays host to several major tournaments every year, including the California State Poker Championship, and many of the game’s biggest stars are residents. The most historic moment in the state’s poker history so far was Antonio Esfandiari’s record-breaking win of $18,346,673 at the 2012 Big One for One Drop.
As the US’ home of poker, it’s only a matter of time until the law on online gambling in California catches up with the state of play.
Placing online wagers on horse racing is, however, already legal in California as well as most other US states and is regulated by the California Horse Racing Board.
These are some of the best-reputed legal operators with racebooks open to Californian bettors:
- Lucky Derby.
Legal online gambling options in California also include the lottery and wagering on sports teams.
California Gambling Control Commission
The California Gambling Control Commission is the official regulator of all online and offline gambling in the state.
The commission remains very involved with the regulation of tribal casinos in the state as well as overseeing the licensing of all card clubs and casinos in the state. The commission’s website provides thorough information on the laws and regulations of online gambling for residents seeking advice.
For gamblers who feel they might be at risk, the commission recommends contacting 1-800-GAMBLER or visiting this website.
To find out more about the law on online gambling in the US, take a look at the picture in Nevada, where online poker has been legal and live since 2013.