On politics in the Golden State

Category: gambling

California lawmakers again consider legalizing sports betting

Days after the Super Bowl provided one of the biggest wagering opportunities of the year, California officials are once again discussing legislation to legalize sports betting in this state.

State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles) has had bill language drafted similar to SB 1390, the legislation he introduced last year that was approved by the Senate but stalled in the Assembly, according to Stan DiOrio, his legislative director.

On Wednesday, the Senate Republican Caucus put out a report on the issue, noting that new legislation is likely and that there are potential benefits to allowing Californians to legally place bets in their home state on the Lakers, Dodgers or Ducks games.

"Authorizing sports wagering at California's horse racing tracks and satellite wagering facilities on fair grounds, card clubs, and tribal casinos, for instance, could … bring more people into these facilities on slow business days," the report said. "Such a plan might provide the vital financial help to the racing and fair industries which they have been seeking desperately."

It also could provide tax revenue to the state, the report said. But, the Republican analysis warned that it would not be enough for the state to pass a law legalizing sports betting. That is because there is a federal prohibition on sports betting in all but a few states, according to the report, titled  "You Wanna Bet? Legalized Wagering on Sporting Events Gets a Second Look."

A lawsuit is challenging the federal law, and Congress is considering a bill to allow sports betting in some states, but the Republican analysis says the challenges are "great" to remove all the obstacles, including opposition from professional sports leagues that fear it will lead athletes and others to cheat.

"Many would argue that the opposite is true – that a legalized, regulated, and policed wagering environment will reduce cheating as sports-fixing schemes are, by their nature, done through illegal means,'' the report said.


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Photo: Jacoby Jones, center, of the Baltimore Ravens runs for a touchdown in the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers during the Super Bowl. Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Image.



Another round for California Internet gambling bill

000243A California lawmaker has resurrected a long-stalled proposal to legalize Internet poker and other online gambling to bring up to $200 million annually to the state coffers, but some Indian casino operators are betting it will once again fall flat.

State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles) has introduced SB 51, which would have the state issue five-year licenses to operate Internet gambling websites, with eligible bidders including Indian tribes, card clubs, horseracing associations and online advanced deposit wagering sites.

Wright has introduced similar bills since 2009 and they have never made it out of the Senate committee he chairs that oversees gambling in the state. Earlier this year, a coalition of card clubs and Indian casinos called the California Online Poker Assn. disbanded amid frustration that the issue remained gridlocked.

The California Tribal Business Alliance does not like that the new bill continues to allow card clubs and others to run sites that might take business away from brick-and-morter Indian casinos with exclusive state rights to electronic games.

"It gives no nod to Indian sovereignty or to our current exclusivity," said David Quintana, political director for the alliance, about the bill. "I think that bill is going to have to be dramatically changed to move forward."


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Photo: State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles) has resurrected his bill to legalize online gambling. Credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli.



California coalition for legalizing Internet poker dissolves

After two years of failed efforts to get the state of California to legalize Internet poker, a coalition of 46 card clubs and Indian casinos is disbanding in frustration.

Legalization bills were introduced this year and last but failed to make it out of committee, in part because of disagreement within the gambling industry over who should be given the state-sanctioned games or whether they would hurt brick-and-mortar casinos.

On Thursday, the California Online Poker Assn. said its governing board has voted to dissolve the organization.  "The decision was based upon insufficient progress within the legislature toward the passage of an online poker bill," said Ryan Hightower, COPA's spokesperson.

Hightower said the group originally expected to operate for two years.

"COPA’s members continue to believe that the authorization of intrastate Internet poker would provide California with hundreds of millions in new state revenue, thousands of new jobs and vital protections for players,’’ Hightower said.

Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), who introduced past poker bills, said the issue is not going away, even if COPA is folding. He called the group a ``grand experiment. You had former enemies trying to work together. People didn't have the same interests.''


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Photo: A man plays poker on his computer connected to an Internet gaming site from his home. Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images.



Jerry Brown authorizes California's first off-reservation tribal casinos

Gov. Jerry Brown approved a plan for two tribes to open casinos away from their ancestral lands, a move that he said would create jobs and help local communities. But critics say the plan could lead to a massive expansion of gambling in California.

In a statement Friday, Brown announced his administration agreed with an earlier ruling from the federal Department of the Interior granting the right of two Northern California tribes -- the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians to open a casino in Madera County and the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe of the Enterprise Rancheria near Yuba City --  to each open 2,000-slot-machine casinos near state highways.

Critics of the plans said Brown had opened the door to a massive expansion of tribal casinos that could lead to new game rooms being opened in or near urban areas across the state.

“These decisions change the face of tribal gaming as we know it in California,” said David Quintana, political director of the California Tribal Business Alliance, which represents a number of casino-owning tribes.   “They will create a new ‘gold rush’ as investors scramble to move tribes to the most profitable markets with many financially-strapped municipalities that will welcome them with open arms. If history taught us anything, it's that gold rushes never benefit California's tribes.”

Brown refuted those charges in a letter  to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, noting that the planned casinos comport with local zoning laws and were warranted because of circumstances unique to these two tribes. “I expect there will be few requests from other tribes that will present the same kind of exceptional circumstances to support a similar expansion of tribal gaming land,” the governor wrote.

The compacts authorizing the new  casinos are still subject to legislative ratification when lawmakers convene after the November elections.


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Tribal casinos provide major economic boost to California, study says

As Gov. Jerry Brown contemplates proposals to expand the number of tribal casinos in California, a new study says Indian gaming has been an economic boon for the state

As Gov. Jerry Brown contemplates proposals to expand the number of tribal casinos in California, a new study says Indian gaming has been an economic boon for the state.

Brown is expected in the next month to decide on whether to approve two more tribal casinos to join the 60 already in operation in California.

The existing tribal gaming operations have helped create 52,000 jobs in different industries throughout the state and $2.7 billion in income for state residents, according to the study commissioned by the California Nations Indian Gaming Assn.

Casino operations provide a ripple effect worth $7.5 billion to the economy, according to the study by Beacon Economics. The casino operations mean jobs in support companies such as firms that make slot machines and those that provide fruits and vegetables to casino restaurants, the study said.

It estimates that about 80% of workers in Indian casinos are not tribal members. Casinos operated by Native American tribes in the state provide $467 million in revenue for the state and local governments, the study concluded.

In addition, tribal gambling operations have provided $818 million to non-gaming tribes during the last dozen years to pay for education, healthcare and housing, it said.

"We have done well for our people, our neighbors, local and state governments and California taxpayers, as well as providing financial assistance for 71 other tribes to assist them in building a foundation for economic independence,'' said Daniel J. Tucker, chairman of the association.


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Photo: The Pala Casino Spa Resort northeast of San Diego was opened by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

California voters favor legalizing sports betting, poll finds


A majority of California voters support the move toward legalizing sports betting in the state, while less than half support government-sanctioned Internet poker, according to a Field Poll released Friday.

That is mixed news for state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), who has bills pending on the two subjects.

The Field Poll found that 58% of California voters support legalization of betting in the state on Lakers, Dodgers and Chargers games, while 35% oppose the move.

Wright’s SB 1396, which passed the Senate and is pending in the Assembly, would allow sports betting in California if the federal government lifts its prohibition on the activity.

Wright has had less success with SB 1463, which would allow the state to issue five-year licenses to groups for operating Internet poker and other gambling sites. With strong opposition from some Indian casino operators, Wright has held the bill in committee.

The Field Poll found that 49% of California voters favor Internet poker, while 45% oppose that form of gambling.


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Photo: California voters would like to be able to legally bet on Dodgers games, others sports, a new poll finds. Credit:  Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

Internet poker bill faces long odds, senator says

State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) said late Tuesday that he would continue negotiations to try to  reach a compromise on legalizing Internet poker in California, but he estimated the odds of success this year are "less than 50-50."

Wright pulled a bill he wrote from the agenda of a Senate hearing as some observers said it did not have enough votes to get out of the Governmental Organization Committee that he chairs.

"We’re going to try and work some more and see what we can do," Wright said. "We will keep talking. But it’s a tough go."

Wright said different groups want different things in the bill that conflict, and some Indian tribes that operate casinos appear firmly against legalizing Internet poker because of fear it will take away their business. The senator said some card clubs that provide poker in casinos don’t want horse-racing tracks and other newcomers to the game to offer poker on the Web.

"If you limit who can participate, you are limiting the number of dollars that come in to the state," Wright said. "Underlying all of this is you still have a public interest to uphold."

Meanwhile, other lawmakers, including Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), said they may pursue alternative legislation allowing Internet poker.


Sen. Wright cancels hearing on Internet poker bill

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Sen. Wright cancels hearing on his Internet poker bill

Getprev State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) on Tuesday canceled a hearing on his proposal to legalize Internet poker as observers said it did not appear to have enough votes to get out of the Governmental Organization Committee that he chairs.

Wright had significantly changed the bill to address concerns by card clubs, Indian casinos and other competing gambling interests, but opposition remained and it is unclear whether the senator will try again to negotiate a compromise this year. Wright did not immediately return calls for comment.

Some supporters of Internet poker have said they may ask another lawmaker to introduce a bill more to their liking. Last year, Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) carried an alternative proposal.

Wright’s SB 1463 would allow nearly 150 card clubs, Indian casinos and horse-racing tracks that operate in California to apply for licenses to run gambling websites open only to state residents. The goal of the bill is to raise at least $200 million annually for the state while protecting Californians who play poker over the web.

Several gambling groups said they would oppose the measure because it did not have enough protections against out-of-state groups taking over California poker sites.


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Photo: State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) delayed a public hearing and vote Tuesday on his legislation that would legalize Internet poker. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

California lawmakers vote for legalizing sports betting

Lakers center Andrew Bynum is stopped by Marc Gasol as Mike Conley comes in to strip the ball.

A bill that could pave the way for betting on sports in California was approved Tuesday by the state Senate.

Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) said he expects the federal government to eventually change its law that prohibits all but four states from allowing sports betting.

If that happens, Wright’s legislation would allow those holding gambling licenses in California, including casinos and horse-racing tracks, to get a state permit to provide sports betting.

The measure, he said "will get California in a forward motion on something going on in other parts of the country.''

Many Californians bet on professional and college sports contests, but do so illegally in the state or through sports betting operations in Nevada, where $2.6 billion is legally bet annually on sports, according to a legislative analysis of the measure.

"We receive absolutely no money from it," Wright said, arguing that the state’s cut of sports betting could involve "a great deal of money."

There were no comments from opponents during Tuesday's floor vote on the bill, which is opposed by the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion, the California Police Chiefs Assn. and USC.

The Senate voted 32-2 to approve SB 1390 and send it to the Assembly for consideration.


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Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum is stopped by Marc Gasol as Mike Conley comes in to strip the ball. Credit: Mike Brown  / European Pressphoto Agency


State voters of two minds about legalizing online poker, poll finds

A new poll shows that voters are of mixed minds about an idea being considered to generate income for the cash-strapped state: legalization of online poker and other forms Internet gambling.

In a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey, about half of the respondents said the spread of web-based gambling would set a bad example for young people and make it more likely they would become addicted.

Still, 47% said they would favor legalization of online poker if, as lawmakers promise, it could raise $200 million annually for education, public safety and other government services.

Online gaming has been effectively illegal in the United States since the passage of a 2006 law that banned Internet gambling companies from performing transactions with American financial institutions. State lawmakers have been struggling to come up with a way around the law, allowing for gaming sites that are operated in state, and where only California residents would be able to play.

Stay tuned for more poll findings in the coming days.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted jointly by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic firm, and the Republican polling company American Viewpoint.

They canvassed 1,002 registered voters from May 17 through 21. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

Related links:

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Photo Credit: Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images


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