A study conducted earlier this year concluded approximately 2 million Californians played online poker on illegal offshore sites wagering as much as $300 million annually. With these numbers in mind, two bills are being proposed in the state legislature to make online poker legal in California.
Senate Bill 40 (SB40) would allow casinos operated by Native American tribes together with card room clubs and horse tracks to apply for a state license to offer online poker sites to California residents. This bill is sanctioned by The California Nations Indian Gaming Association comprised of various Native American Indian tribes and The California Gaming Association representing more than 75% licensed card room clubs throughout the state.
Senate Bill 45 (SB45) takes a similar but more lenient approach by allowing Native American Indian tribes and card room clubs as well as Nevada casinos and offshore operators to apply and compete for a state license to offer online poker sites. The tribal alliance, a powerful lobby group in the state, is cautious this second proposed bill could contravene the exclusive rights of Native American tribes in the state of California to operate casino gambling.
Opponents to legalizing online poker generally contend propelling online poker into the mainstream poses huge financial and social risks for problem gamblers while offshore operators are quick to point out either of the proposed bills would restrict competition by prohibiting poker players from using offshore online gambling sites. Supporters argue illegal online gambling will continue and the state of California could benefit from the millions of dollars generated by legalizing online poker.