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California Online Poker Hearings in February

December 16, 2009 (CAP Newswire) — Perhaps making the most of the United States’ newfound interest in possibly giving online gambling regulation the attention it deserves, the state of California has also resumed its own separate drive to fully legalize online poker within its borders.

A group that was led by a powerful casino-holding tribe started the initiative last summer, but couldn’t make much progress given the state’s budget crisis. And even though that crisis hasn’t gone away — or more likely because that crisis hasn’t gone away — the same group is taking another crack at the goal of online poker regulation early in 2010.

And with good reason: “California Internet poker games could bring in at least $1 billion annually,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “If the state were to tax those games at the same 25 percent rate that it gets from the slot machines at Indian casinos, that would mean an extra $250 million a year.

“Small wonder that the chair of the Governmental Organization Committee, state Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood (Los Angeles County), said that he’s planning hearings in February. So far Wright’s chief concern seems to be getting a bill that would win the support of the Indian tribes (which, coincidentally, donated $50,000 to his election last year).”

Ironically, given the fact that it was Indian tribes who first started this drive, it may also be tribes that kill it. Casino revenues are extremely competitive in the state, and any deal that doesn’t include a majority of tribes may not get very far.

So, the state has its work cut out for it. And it will have to act before any kind of federal regulations are passed (but that doesn’t seem like a problem). It’s good to see a state trying to get something done on the issue. Click here to read the entire story at the Chronicle.