The latest two states to jump in the poker news arena are California and North Carolina. In the Golden State, California Senator Lou Correa is urging state politicians to pass his online poker-only bill SB40. If passed into law by the end of this year, Californians could be hitting the virtual tables in 2012. In the south, it is live poker games at stake - complete with dealers, cards and chips.
California lawmakers in favor of bill SB40 say if the bill is passed, it could generate $250 Million this fiscal year and help “avoid the triggers that will result in deeper cuts to education and other public services.” Jim Wise, a federal advocate and congressional expert, has said he believed the chance of federal regulation was “Quite high, due to attractive potential revenues and minimal political opposition.”
Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the land-based casino-backed American Gaming Association (AGA), has said he would not support an existing federal proposal sponsored by Congressman Joe Barton. He instead will be pushing new legislation this fall that calls for Nevada and New Jersey to be the licensing and regulatory authorities in a future US egaming market. “Taxes would be divided between the state where the bettor is, with the state where the regulator is,” Fahrenkopf said. “The federal government would only receive the income tax on winnings,” he added.
The closure of Full Tilt Poker has left an estimated $150 Million in US player funds in jeopardy which backers say emphasizes the need for player protection. Strict age verification and anti-fraud measures are outlined in SB40 which should address fears of detractors like Senator Dianne Feinstein who has stated she believes, “Internet gambling has become too easily accessible to minors, subject to fraud and criminal misuse, and too easily used as a tool to evade state gambling laws."
California, like every other state in the Union in having a financial meltdown of devastating proportions and lawmakers are looking for new revenue sources. So in spite of Feinstein’s objections and misguided perceptions about online poker, with any luck residents of the Golden State could be hitting the virtual tables next year.
Another state looking to change their gaming laws is North Carolina. While some federal legislators are fighting to get online poker legalized and regulated, lawmakers in North Carolina are looking into opening up all types of casino gambling - including poker at Harrah’s Cherokee casino.
Harrah’s Cherokee is the lone gambling destination for residents of both North and South Carolina, northern Georgia, southern Virginia, and eastern Tennessee but they don’t offer live poker. This leaves no options for poker players in the southeast to play in live games other than at underground clubs and in home games. Because of the World Series of Poker, the Harrah’s brand name is synonymous with poker, but poker players looking for a traditional poker game won’t find one at Harrah’s Cherokee. That is because every game in the casino is electronic – even blackjack. Yes they have a poker room, but instead of dealers, chips and cards, poker players will find ten PokerPro fully automated, electronic poker tables. Although the tables are legitimate and offer a good game, the majority of poker players want the traditional poker game experience; complete with live dealers, clicking chips and shuffled cards.
The electronic games only oddity at the casino stems from an agreement between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the state. When the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Gambling Regulatory Act in 1988, it allowed federal-recognized Native American tribes to open casinos on their own tribal land. The hitch was the games offered had to be legal in the state. After opening a small casino in the 1990’s and offering bingo, poker, and pull tab cash prize machines, the Asheville U.S. Attorney said the casino had to get rid of all games except bingo - because bingo was the only legal game in North Carolina.
Wanting to expand beyond being a bingo parlor, Cherokee leaders were able to come to an agreement with Governor Jim Hunt and the casino was allowed to offer electronic games. But the only games allowed were ones that required ‘skill or dexterity’ which somehow included slot machines. Real table games were not allowed and there could be no jackpots higher than $25,000. Alcohol also could not be served, but that was due to tribal laws.
First, electronic blackjack was added and then the first PokerPro automated poker tables were added in 2009. But now in an era of diminishing jobs, Chris Mackey, a spokeswoman for Governor Beverly Perdue’s office, believes, “The expansion that the Cherokee proposed could create hundreds of jobs in western North Carolina.”
The tribe has estimated that adding live poker, craps, and blackjack would create 430 jobs. Discussions are expected to continue when the state the legislature reconvenes later this month, and poker players in the sixth most visited state in the country hope the cards will fall in their favor.