California inching towards legal online poker

Empire Casino, London

California may be the first state to dip its toes into legalized online poker.

A draft bill called the California Online Poker Law Enforcement Compliance and Consumer Protection Act is in the works seeking to legalize and regulate online poker within the state's borders.

Under the lead of then-Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, California had previously been looking into whether or not the state could legalize online poker within its borders under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

Now it appears the state is moving on to the next step of actually trying to legalize online poker.

The first part of the draft bill, dated Jan. 15, 2009, is the Legislature's findings on the matter of online poker.

The bill discusses the billions of dollars that United States citizens spend in online gambling in 2008, and that the sites the money went to were offshore and unregulated by a U.S. entity.

California is already licensing and regulating live poker games, "yet provides no licensing requirements, regulatory structure or law enforcement tools to protect millions of Californians who play exactly the same games daily for money online."

According to the draft bill, in order to protect those Californians who play poker online and allow state law enforcement to license and regulate Internet poker sites, "It is in the best interest of the state and its citizens to authorize, implement and create a licensing and regulatory structure and system to allow licensed gambling establishments to operate government-regulated Internet poker wagering Web sites."

Essentially, California believes that the sites licensed in California could offer the same poker games as permitted in licensed land-based card rooms, and the Californians that want to play online would be better protected in a licensed and regulated environment.

Licenses to operate intrastate internet poker sites will only be issued to current gaming establishments licensed by the State of California and to California tribes with gaming compacts.

The Gambling Control Commission and the Bureau of Gambling Control within the Department of Justice will be in charge of putting together a structure for regulation and licensing of intrastate poker to keep it within the guidelines of the UIGEA.

Some of the factors that will have to be taken into consideration are making sure the licensed establishments are within California and ensuring that the players are all located in California.

There will also be guidelines to address the issue of underage gambling, compulsive gambling and effective law enforcement oversight of the operation of online poker in the state.

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