(Population of 38.8 million as of 2014)
With a population of nearly 38 million, the Californian 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, most recently 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. However, the winds seem to be changing and those once warring tribes are aligning their interests.
“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 was second only to Pennsylvania. In 2017, its 10th year of discussion, California online poker legislation has made progress only to have it stymied.
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.
Now, former bill sponsors, Assemblyman Mike Gatto and Sen. Isadore Hall, aren’t in office anymore.
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.
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.
For its 10th year (as of 2017), California introduced online poker regulation legislation, but suitability remains an issue between PokerStars and tribal coalitions.
In conclusion, California, which made up 16 percent of all revenue for U.S.-based online poker players prior to Black Friday, is primed for iGaming, and legislative movement is expected to happen either this year or the next.