California Elects Not to Prohibit Net Betting

29 August 2001
California bill AB 1229, which would ban Internet gambling activities in the Golden State, was tabled yesterday by the state Senate Governmental Organization Committee. The legislation went before the Senate May 30 after a fairly smooth trip through the state Assembly.

Assemblyman Dario Frommer, a former staffer for Governor Gray Davis, introduced the bill in February. Frommer was dismayed by the committee's move to shelve his bill.

"The only winners in today's action were Las Vegas' biggest casinos, a well-connected Indian tribe, and hundreds of unscrupulous gambling sites," he told the Sacramento Bee Tuesday. "The losers are average Californians who are literally a mouse click away from losing their life savings (or) homes to shady online casinos."

The "well-connected Indian tribe" that Frommer referred to is the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, which was represented by a spokesperson before the Senate committee Tuesday. The tribe, which operates a casino located in Ukiah, was looking to protect its current and possible future gaming interests. California is one of several states where Indian tribes operate gambling facilities.

"We need to preserve our options," Risling told reporters after the Senate meeting. "Who knows what the future will bring?"

The California Indian Nations Gambling Association has taken no official stance on the bill, a spokesperson told IGN today. On the other hand, the association doesn't want any type of legislation enacted that would inhibit tribal gaming opportunities down the road, including Internet gambling.

"We don't know if virtual casinos could be a reality, but we want to make sure these doors don't close on tribes now," the association's director, Jacob Coin, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Risling, for example, noted that many Indian casinos are located off the beaten path, which could make online gaming a desirable option in attracting and retaining customers. "We're not saying we want to offer (online gambling)," she said. "But we don't want to have our hands tied for the future."

Other dissenters attacked AB 1229 over whether the bill was enforceable. A spokesman for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said the enforcement role for AB 1229 would have to be undertaken by some other office. Lockyer told the San Jose Mercury Sun, "We're not sending jack-booted thugs door-to-door to see who's placing bets on their home computers."

The tabling of AB 1229 comes just weeks after the governor signed into law AB 471, a bill which permits account wagering via telephone and other electronic means. That bill was signed August 13 and will go into effect January 1, 2002.