In 2008, it looked like California might become the first state to establish intrastate online poker, but the bill fell apart because of infighting between the Indian casinos, card rooms and other parties trying to secure the largest stake for themselves.
Three years later, New Jersey has become the first state to pass legislation to license and regulate the activity. In the Sunshine State, the infighting continues.
Patrick Dorinson hopes to change that. The new executive director of the Poker Voters of America, Dorinson has also worked on the other side as a spokesman for the Morongo tribe's California Online Poker Association. He hopes to bring the two opposing groups together to form a consensus bill that can pass through California's legislature.
"If I can be a facilitator because of my knowledge of both sides, I humbly accept," Dorinson said. "I want to work with all parties concerned and be a bridge."
Dorinson was let go by Morongo in what he says was a budget cut. He stresses that he left on good terms and came to Poker Voters of America because he wanted to stay involved in the issue of pushing for online poker. He sees the parties coming together in the next few weeks and perhaps continuing talks in the next couple months.
"I think we're all much closer than we think," Dorinson said. "I truly believe we can get this done. There's issues that need to be resolved but we have a lot of points of agreement. I think it's critical for everyone to talk, clear up any misunderstandings and get this thing moving."
Dorinson has a long history of service in California. Beginning in 1997, he developed the communication department and was the lead spokesman for the California Independent System Operator that manages the state's electricity grid. During 2003's recall election, he served on the press staff for Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor. Once elected, Schwarzenegger named Dorinson as deputy secretary for the largest agency in California's state government, the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. In 2006, he served as the communications director for the California Republican Party.
Dorinson believes that the California government is looking for ways to increase revenue without raising taxes and would pass online poker legislation if the different parties could come together in support of one bill.
Most of the tribes and card rooms in California have come to realize that Internet poker could help them, and that it is not a threat to their bricks-and-mortar establishments. Only the California Tribal Business Alliance and its four small tribes still oppose any legislation.
The recent passage in New Jersey could be the kick in the rear that the California tribes and card rooms need to reach a compromise.
"That should be an impetus to us," Dorinson said. "I think it will have that kind of effect."