(Population of 39,536,653 as of 2017)
With a population of nearly 38 million, the California market is extremely alluring. According to a recent research study conducted by consultancy Academicon and market research company PokerScout, iGaming in California could generate up to $263 million in revenue in its first year, and up to $384 million in its 10th year.
What’s more, California has been exploring iGaming legislation for a while now. A few years back, there was Senator Lou Correa’s stalled SB 678 “Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013,” which would legalize online poker but not other games. Other legislation introduced have been Senator Roderick Wright’s SB 51 “Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013” and “The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2013,” which was sponsored by eight of California’s tribes.
Previous legislation has stalled mainly due to Tribes failing to get on the same page, which isn’t surprising considering there are almost 100 card rooms and 68 tribal casinos in the Golden State.
“For more than five years, CNIGA’s member tribes have been tracking legislation that attempts to legalize internet gaming. We expect 2014 to be no different,” said Daniel J. Tucker, Chairman of California Nations Indian Gaming Association in Casino Enterprise Management. “With multiple bills being proposed in California, it is imperative for tribes to reach a consensus on bill language that is beneficial to California tribes, as well as the citizens of this state. We are confident that together this is possible.”
Unfortunately, one interest all the tribes seem to agree upon is not entering into interstate compacts. In other words, they plan to keep their massive player pool (and revenue) to themselves. That’s a major blow to players in the rest of the United States, but with such a major population, it’s possible we might see another migration of young men heading west to seek out their fortune.
In 2014 and 2015, California was the most likely state to legalize online poker. In 2016, California made some of the most meaningful progress yet.
Assemblyman Adam Gray worked to get the horse racing industry on board and build the largest coalition to date in support of online poker regulation, but tribal infighting over suitability standards killed the bill.
Horse racing brought the bill closer than it’s ever been, but the $60 million stipend that would come from the state does not incentive lawmakers to pass a bill, especially without the financial need in California.
The near miss didn't carry over to 2017.
Former bill sponsors, Assemblyman Mike Gatto and Sen. Isadore Hall, aren’t in office anymore. A new bill was introduced in February 2017 by California Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act, extremely similar to another online poker bill proposed last year.
The 10th year wasn't the charm, as suitability remains an issue between PokerStars and tribal coalitions. The negative momentum continued in 2018 with the announcement that no bill would even be introduced for the first time in a decade.
In conclusion, California, which made up 16 percent of all revenue for U.S.-based online poker players prior to Black Friday, looked primed for iGaming, but progress has ground to a halt and appears to have reversed, if anything.