Calif. poker proposal models Swedish system

Phil Laak

If a California petition drive is successful, a proposal to set up a state-owned Internet poker site will be on the ballot in February.

Online player Tony Sandstrom has introduced an initiative that would see California profit from a system that would operate much like the state-run lottery.

Under Sandstrom's proposal, the site would collect a rake from poker games, 45% of which would go to the teachers' pensions in the state with an additional 45% going to veterans' homes, mental health programs for military personal and to purchase hearing aids and artificial limbs for veterans. The remaining 10% would fund gambling addiction programs.

Sandstrom has also added room for some net revenue money to be directed to cities and counties to fix roads.

The system would be similar to Sweden's Svenska Spel, which raked $700 million in profits last year.

This proposal - which banks on gathering voter support from bands running Indian casinos, which could see a revenue sharing deal; teachers' unions; and military groups - would order the state to establish the site within 150 days of its adoption. It also lays out game rules and bars players under the age of 21.

California is said to be the world's online poker capital, and some experts are saying the state should profit from it by legalizing and taxing the game.

"It's silly for the state not to get into the business," I. Nelson Rose, an attorney and gambling expert told "Billions of dollars are being spent on the game here, and the state isn't getting one penny."

Rose did, however, go on to say that while California will ultimately legalize online poker, he wasn't sure whether Sandstrom's proposal would make it happen. For the ballot to qualify, the proposal requires 430,000 signatures by the end of the year.

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