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California Following New Jersey's Online Gambling Legislation Footsteps

Following in the footsteps of the New Jersey Senate passing Internet gambling legislation, it appears California is ready to make a strong run at instituting intrastate online poker in 2011.

"We have a bill sponsor who will be announced in the next few weeks," said Melanie Brenner, executive director of the trade association Poker Voters of America, which has been focusing its efforts in the Golden State. "The challenge in California has always been with the tribes, and we have made great strides there. We are just ironing out a few minor details and then we will be able to make a public announcement of their support very soon."

Legislators in California showed interest in discussing an online poker bill this year but the proposal fell apart without support from Indian tribes that control gambling interests in the state. With support from the tribes, legislation could move as quickly as it has in New Jersey.

While the recent election established challenges at the federal level, where the Republicans took control of the house to limit Barney Frank's ability to push Internet gambling legislation, Brenner believes the political climate in California improved.

Both houses of the legislature remain strongly Democratic, and the new governor, Jerry Brown, is someone Brenner believes can be counted on to sign a poker-related bill.

"When we started this process, we started in the Attorney General's office and talked to him," Brenner said of Brown. "There's no doubt where he is on this issue. He won't come out fully behind it, but we know it will be a quick trip to get it signed by the governor if we can get it on his desk."

The Internet poker bill needs a new sponsor in California because State Sen. Rod Wright, who sponsored the bill this year, is going through legal trouble after being indicted for voter fraud and perjury regarding the claim of residency he used to be elected. Wright previously chaired the state's Governmental Organization Committee, but isn't even expected to serve on the committee next year.

Brenner said the recent progress in New Jersey should help get other states moving on this issue, especially if New Jersey can take it all the way next year as many expect it will. Poker Voters of America also is working on pushing legislation in Florida. That bill, which will be sponsored in the Florida House of Representatives by Joe Abruzzo, is currently being drafted and is expected to be very similar to the California bill.

"I'm really pulling for them to get it done in New Jersey," Brenner said. "It would be great for us. I think there's a certain apprehension from some of the states on if they want to be first. When we first sit down with legislators, they always ask what other state has done this. To have a state up and pass legislation will give us more momentum."

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