The big-money debate over legalizing Internet gambling in California is heating up as the Legislature begins its final month of business for the year.
The California Online Poker Association, backed by the Morongo and San Manuel bands of Indians as well as many card rooms, has begun airing radio and television ads urging the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 40 by Sen. Lou Correa. The bill would make internet poker legal and tax it, potentially bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to state coffers.
"Unfortunately, nurses, police, fire and services for the poor and disabled will all be cut again if California doesn't find $4 billion in new revenue by December," the radio ad says. "There is a solution. By approving online poker, California has the ability to tap $250 million in new money immediately and billions in years to come."
The ad goes on to urge listeners to "tell the politicians in Sacramento to authorize online poker now. California needs the money and Californians need the jobs."
The Internet poker bill is opposed by many other gaming tribes who feel it doesn't give them enough opportunity to cash in on the potential riches. Some of those tribes issued a letter today asking the Legislature not to act on Internet gambling in the remaining weeks of session.
"Even though there have been hearings on the matter of intrastate internet poker, many fiscal, legal, technical and policy related questions must be resolved before adoption of any intrastate internet gaming legislation. There are numerous stakeholders who stand to be irreparably harmed should legislation be 'ram-rodded' through this legislative year and this surely would be a disservice to ALL Californians, Tribal and Non-Tribal, alike," says the letter from Robert H. Smith, Chairman of the California Tribal Business Alliance.
"For these reasons, we believe the Legislature should not take any action on intrastate internet poker legislation during the final month of the legislative year and should instead opt to utilize the Interim to work with all interested parties to develop a consensus bill."
The full letter is here.
Meanwhile, the Assembly's Governmental Organization Committee has scheduled a hearing on Internet gambling: Aug. 24 at 1:30 p.m. in room 4202 of the state Capitol.
Click here to see a sampling of political spending by gambling interests involved in California's debate over online gambling.