News / California getting closer to legal online poker

California getting closer to legal online pokerVendredi, 2 mai 2014

It's a given that this time will be the right one: California will have online poker soon. The biggest question mark at this moment: will it be with, or without PokerStars?

Last week, Stars and the biggest live poker rooms in the state, along with the Morongo band of Indians, announced they had reached an agreement, where PokerStars would be providing online poker as partners with them. Amongst the poker rooms, the Commerce, the Bicycle, Bay 101 and Hawaiian Gardens, owners of the vast majority of poker tables in California.

This is quite a catch for the online giant. It might be enough to finally allow them to come back in the United States! Contrary to what they did in New Jersey, this time they seem to have a better grasp on the market. They seem to understand all this is, is related to jobs, existing jobs, not promised ones. In New Jersey, all the Rational Group attempted to do was buy an old bankrupt casino in Atlantic City. This time, its alies already represent jobs and tax dollars. They thus have a real impact on the legislature.

In New Jersey, Stars was more like a novice hopeful than what it really is. It looked weak and not interesting, compared to its opponents, like Caesars Entertainment with its 3 well established Atlantic City casinos. This time, PokerStars has much better allies.

Still, they have a lot of work ahead of them. Their opponents have some good cards in their hands. One, in the eventuality of interstate poker, which seems an eventual certainty, it would be simpler without "bad actors" in any state. Too many states already have these bans in their laws.

This distinction, coupled with the fact that PokerStars still can barely represent itself as an important job creator, allows its opponents to have more roaming space. It was evident in New Jersey, it is more subtle here, but just as much in effect.

Aside from the possible arrival of Stars, many positives have made their way here in the last weeks. First it seems a done deal that taxation would go around 8%-9%, which is a good rate, allowing operators to thrive. Also, a recent poll of 800 Californians shows that people favor online poker by a 62%- 28% advantage. When the same people were told the measure would give the state more revenues from taxation, the proportion went up to 68%-27%. Just like here, the proportion of players eager to play online diminishes when they are told some personal information would have to be provided upon registration, especially the social insurance number. The fact Americans are taxed on the gambling wins makes this information mandatory, unlike here in Canada.

Independently of who will be in or out, there will likely be at least 5 or 6 licenses granted to operators. Enough to satisfy most companies.

California will decide soon how they want to go ahead with online poker. The current discussions are mainly aimed at unifying the two bills actually deposited in the California legislation. Both can be unified, except for the bad actor clause, the most important part of the project.

At a moment when many major states are introducing or preparing bills to allow online poker, this one is pivotal for PokerStars. It is time for them to do what they need to do and get in the market. Otherwise, they might face a very tough uphill battle.

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