How Soon Could California Launch their Online Poker Industry?

January 28, 2015
How Soon Could California Launch their Online Poker Industry?

Based on the timeline presented in Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer new online poker bill, AB 167, also known as The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015, California’s online poker industry would be up and running within 635 days of the bill being signed into law.

California Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer introduced the new online poker bill last week, and in the bill’s many pages (83 of them) was a passage that allows regulators 270 days from the adoption of the bill to create the regulatory framework for the state’s online poker industry. The bill then allows for an additional 365 days for operators to be licensed.

What this means is, even if the bill was passed this year, online poker wouldn’t be live in California until sometime in 2017 based on the legislation’s own timeline. However, it might not take quite that long, considering the launch timetables in other states.

California might be ready to go much sooner than that, perhaps as soon as early to mid 2016.

New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware timelines

New Jersey managed to rush through their regulations and licensing application process, and the state remarkably had their online gaming industry (online poker and online casinos) up and running on November 21, 2013 – nine months after their iGaming bill was signed into law on February 26, 2013.

What New Jersey accomplished was nothing short of amazing. The industry has certainly had some hiccups, but not from a regulatory point of view. The NJ DGE and the operators should be commended.

On the flipside, Nevada’s path from passing an iGaming law (June 16, 2011) to launching an online poker site (April 30, 2013) could have been measured in dog years.  It took the state nearly two years (22 months) after the bill’s passage to launch a single online poker site.

This slow process, while frustrating, shouldn’t be seen as a negative. Being first, Nevada had to make sure everything was perfect – every “i” needed to be dotted and every “t” crossed, for the simple reason that if Nevada failed online gaming would suffer a major setback in the U.S.

The third state, Delaware, landed right in the middle of New Jersey’s and Nevada’s timelines, launching their online gaming industry 16 months after the state’s iGaming law was signed by the governor. Delaware’s online gaming bill was signed into law on June 28th, 2012, and the state launched their single-provider online gaming industry on October 31, 2013.

Why California might be on the slower side

One aspect to consider is New Jersey’s online gambling industry launched with just 16 total websites and six operators, whereas California will likely have many more than this, at least in the beginning. For regulators this means more licenses to vet, more software to check, and more service providers to license.

Additionally, California also has multiple regulatory bodies (tribes have their own regulators), and will be the first iGaming industry that incorporates tribal gaming. Each tribe has their own gaming regulators, and tribes fall back on the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, sometimes over the concerns of state regulators.

Basically, California may suffer from what can best be termed as a large bureaucracy.

Why California might be on the faster side

On the plus side, online expansion in California will be poker-only, which means far fewer games will need to be tested by state regulators – the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement stated they tested 253 different casino games before the industry launched.

Furthermore, it appears that several expected licensees plan on using the same software, and likely operating on the same network, which should cut down on the amount of software that needs to be tested – although each licensee’s auditing and security methods would need to be tested individually.

California will also be able to draw on the lessons learned in the early adopter states, and will likely be in contact with regulators from New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, which could speed up the vetting process.

Finally, we can be hopeful that California regulators have already begun drafting a preliminary framework considering the state has been at this since 2009.


There are too many moving pieces in a state the size of California, which is why I feel a timeline on pace with New Jersey is untenable, but when all is said and done I would expect California to be closer to Delaware’s timeline than Nevada’s.

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