A recent article on OnlinePokerReport.com speculated about three states that might regulate online poker in 2017.
While we've already discussed this topic, there was something briefly mentioned about California that caught our attention.
According to the piece there are some "whispered rumors" that PokerStars may quit pursuing an online poker license in California.
If this rumor proves to be true, not only is it a major development but it may finally result in California moving forward with online poker regulation.
PokerStars Withdrawal Will Result in Tribal Victory
If PokerStars decides to give up on pursuing a license in California, it will be considered a huge win for the Pechanga coalition of tribes that are opposed to bad actors in the state.
The whole issue of bad actors and consensus has hinged on PokerStars, whether publicly admitted or not.
Thus far, PokerStars is the only former online poker operator from before Black Friday to try and operate inside of a legal framework in the United States.
Should they pull out, there are no other former bad actors out there that will lobby for inclusion in California. This means that lawmakers and tribes can then work to hammer out a suitability clause that is acceptable by both sides.
If PokerStars pulls out, don't be surprised to see a new bad actor clause crafted and one that will put harsh restrictions or penalties on bad actors that want to come into the state.
There's even a chance that the state could come to agreement on a complete ban of bad actors, meaning that PokerStars will never be allowed in the state.
PokerStars Withdrawal Will Accelerate Process
A PokerStars pullout will get lawmakers and tribal officials scrambling to work on iPoker legislation. With the second major hurdle resolved, both sides will start to quickly work towards a new draft of iPoker legislation.
In fact, we could see a new bill and hearings being held within 2-3 weeks of a PokerStars pullout. The only real "issue" at that point will be the horse racing industry and odds are that a deal similar to one hammered out in 2016 will be floated and accepted.
Unless some of the smaller tribes start to get cold feet, we might finally see a consensus on iPoker amongst tribes and the bill should receive their full blessing. At that point we should finally see an iPoker bill come to a vote in the Assembly and move on to the Senate.
PokerStars Withdrawal Will Result in Legalized Online Poker in California
Finally, we believe that a PokerStars withdrawal will result in California finally regulating online poker. Keep in mind, such a bill will likely make it near impossible for PokerStars or any former bad actor to return to the state, but there are plenty of other operators that can move in and service customers.
If PokerStars pulls out and a bill is pushed through before the summer, there is a good chance we could see online poker go online in late 2017. However, a more realistic expectation is 2018.
When this happens, don't be surprised to see WSOP.com become the primary site in California with another operator becoming the primary face of tribal online poker.
While many believe that online poker in the U.S. cannot succeed without PokerStars, California is one area that may be the exception due to their market share.
The reality at this point is that online poker will likely not happen anytime soon as long as PokerStars continues to pursue a license. Their withdrawal may be the catalyst that finally allows California to regulate online poker.