The bill was first introduced to the California state legislature in early 2008 by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine. The two-page document that is AB 2026 provides only for a study on internet poker within the borders of California for its residents only, and after an initial passage by the California Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, it has remained stagnant ever since. But it may have just recently received new life through the support of one of the many California tribes that participates in live gaming opportunities, as the Morongo Band of Mission Indians recently announced its intention to advocate for the bill.
As AB 2026 states, its passage would direct the California Gambling Control Commission and the Department of Justice to conduct a study and report its findings to the state legislature. The intrastate internet poker in question “could only be operated by gambling establishments that have 80 or more tables, pursuant to the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.” Information in the study must include regulatory oversight, licensing, technological issues, underage and problem gambling matters, methods of play and types of games to be offered, and the means of conducting and operating those games.
The last word on the bill came in January of 2009 when it was under consideration for the Senate Appropriations Committee, but those efforts presumably failed. It wasn’t until August of 2009 that new life seemed to be given to the proposed legislation, which was a topic of discussion at the summer Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations meeting, which included the Morongo tribe. From that came the intent to form the California Tribal Intrastate Internet Poker Consortium (CTIIPC), which will outline its advocacy for the online poker legislation. Already on board with the CTIIPC is the largest card club in the world, Commerce Casino.
Most tribes have expressed opposition to the bill, as online poker would tap into the gambling revenue that tribal casinos depend on. But Morongo seems to have reconciled the fact that online poker is a potential source of revenue, and those who choose to embrace have the opportunity to benefit from that. Morongo has indicated its willingness to pursue the legislation, having already made “extensive outreach to members and leadership” of card clubs and fellow California tribes, according to spokesman Patrick Dorinson.
In an effort to mobilize in support of the legislation, the focus will be on consumer protection and taxation of online poker, which has the potential to bring up to $4 billion per year to the struggling California economy. Morongo might be the encouragement the bill needed to finally move forward, but it will likely be a long process before a vote can be taken in the state legislature. This simply brings the bill one step closer to the realm of possibility.