With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's signature Tuesday, three states have now approved Internet gambling bills -- a concept the California Legislature has kicked around for a few years without taking any action.
The debate will likely be rekindled in the Golden State this year, as lawmakers consider at least two measures that would legalize online gambling for players in California. Sen. Rod Wright's Senate Bill 51 would allow tribes, race tracks, advanced deposit wagering companies and other gambling businesses to apply for a license to operate an Internet gambling site. They would pay $30 million to the state's general fund for the license, and be permitted to offer a variety of games.
Sen. Lou Correa's Senate Bill 678 would authorize Internet poker only. The bill would require the California Gambling Control Commission to work out the details on who could be licensed to operate an Internet poker web site.
Rumors have swirled that a third bill is in the works, being pushed by a handful of Indian tribes.
The Senate leader said Thursday he has nothing to do with it.
"I'm not authoring a bill. No. N-O. Underline. No," Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said.
Last year, the Sacramento Democrat co-authored a bill to permit Internet gambling in California. It never went anywhere, largely because of infighting among the state's gambling factions, which include Indian tribes, card rooms and horse-racing tracks.
"There needs to be a willingness among the stakeholders to come together and decide if they want this in California or not. Last year I put a little political capital out there and spent a lot of time trying to help the parties come together. They didn't. And this year, I'm moving on," Steinberg said.
David Quintana, a lobbyist who represents several casino-owning tribes, said approval of internet gaming in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware "does not create an overwhelming sense of urgency" in Sacramento.
"However, it does kind of send a message that other states need to start looking harder at this issue because it is one that is going to expand. So states that have a market, such as California, need to look closer and put a game plan together," he said.
The states approving Internet gambling are generally allowing it only for players within their state boundaries. However, New Jersey's law allows for compacts with other states that permit Internet gambling -- potentially creating competition for California if it legalizes the practice.
"As other states pass their own Internet gambling laws, competition could quickly increase. They could quickly look to states like New Jersey or Nevada that already have established systems as 'the guts' of their own online operations," says an Associated Press report.
"For instance, California, which has been considering its own online gambling law, would be a natural fit for an alliance with Nevada."
PHOTO CREDIT: An online poker player studies the computer screen during a conference in Las Vegas on Oct. 4, 2011. Julie Jacobson / Associated Press file, 2011.