In an interview with the poker information site Online Poker Report this week, Richard Schuetz, head of the California Gambling Control Commission, discussed the future of online gambling in the populous state of California, stressing that tribal bricks-and-mortar casino operator “cannibalisation” fears may ensure that only online poker will be legalised.
Three online poker legalisation bills ran out of time this year (see previous reports), but are expected to go back on the legislature’s agenda in 2014.
On the subject of compacts with other US legalising states, Schuetz said that California had a large enough population to go it alone.
“We have 38 million people. We’re the eighth largest economy of the world. As such, we aren’t as dependent on – we’re bigger than Canada, so it’s not a case like Nevada that has 2.7 million people,” he said.
“This is a game about numbers. If the numbers aren’t there, all the wishing and hoping is not going to make it work. In some regards, it’s like a state saying, “We want to be an oil producer.” Well, you better have oil. If you don’t have oil, you’re not going to be an oil producer.
“For a small state to try and develop a game that involves big numbers, that’s a problem. So California is in a unique situation with its 38-plus million people. Plus we have some wonderful demographics. We have more poker tables in the state of California than every other state in the nation.”
Schuetz illustrated his point by noting that Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Iowa together constituted about 61 percent of California’s population.
However, he did not rule out the possibility that in certain circumstances compacts with other states might be beneficial to the Golden State, although he stressed that the authority to compact, and indeed the legalisation of online poker itself, was the preserve of California lawmakers.
Getting a legalisation bill through in California could be a problem, Schuetz opined, referencing the fact that 2014 is an election year which can change lawmaker behaviours; and that the debate over legalisation has been long and remains contentious, with many differing interests involved.
However, there were important motivations for legalisation such as business development and employment, the elimination of illegal operators and tax collection.
Speaking from a personal perspective on legalisation, Schuetz commented:
“It’s kind of funny, when you have 18 forms of legalized gambling, you know, what’s wrong with the 19th? You have state-run monopolies with regards to the lottery, blackjack, slot machines, poker, off-track betting, charitable bingo, on and on and on; and all of a sudden why draw the line here?
“Especially a game that because of its technological sophistication, is pretty easy to control, both from a protecting-the-vulnerable card and a whole bunch of reasons. It’s modern.”
Read the full interview here: