How An Omnibus Online Gambling Bill Could Come To California

Dustin Gouker July 22, 2016 1394 Reads
California omnibus gambling (1)

Under the right set of circumstances, there’s a chance California puts together a bill that regulates the major forms of online gambling — poker, daily fantasy sports and sports betting.

Wait, all the online gambling in CA?

The last time online poker legislation was on the agenda in the state, things weren’t looking good in resolving the differences between two competing coalitions.

The bill passed out of a committee in June, but it has not yet seen the light of the day on the Assembly floor. It will be August before we see any action on the bill — if at all.

But California gaming attorney Vincent Oliver posed an interesting, albeit hypothetical, scenario in which California could lump online poker in with other forms of gaming.

How likely the series of events he outlined are to come to fruition is certainly up for debate. But it would definitely change the dynamic in the state.

California, sports betting and the kitchen sink

Oliver’s hypothetical hinges on a court case all the way across the country, in New Jersey. So here is how an omnibus gambling bill could come about:

  • In the New Jersey sports betting case, the state wins in the Third District in its bid allow sports wagering.
  • California, emboldened by that situation, quickly pivots to try allow sports betting — including online wagering. A bill actually already exists in the legislature.
  • If that happens, there’s a chance that online poker and daily fantasy sports get thrown into a sports betting bill.

New Jersey winning its case is a pretty big “if.” But it’s clear that a lot of states — like Pennsylvania — would love to authorize sports betting if they could. So the other dominoes in California are certainly feasible, if NJ wins.

It’s not the first time the omnibus approach has been floated in California; it came in a Los Angeles Times house editorial earlier this year. “The argument for setting up a safer environment for fantasy sports games applies in spades to online poker,” the house editorial argued.

What’s next in California?

For now, online poker is going it alone, however. It likely needs to be amended on the Assembly floor before it comes up for a vote. And that’s if the lawmakers and forces behind it believe:

  1. The bill has the votes to overcome the Pechanga-led coalition’s opposition, or
  2. Some sort of compromise is struck on the legislation.

Will any of that happen in the short-term? While a lot of progress has been made in 2016, that might be a reach.

It’s also not clear that the NJ sports betting decision will come before the California legislature adjourns at the end of August, and an omnibus gambling bill might not have time to come together even if it does come down soon.

Will anything happen this year? It’s not impossible, but betting on either online poker passing by itself or an omnibus online gambling bill reaching the finish line doesn’t seem like a favorite today.

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