By Ben Tulchin
Special to Calbuzz
In his State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown asked for alternative solutions to California’s budget crisis and one solution is already in the works – Senate Bill 40 by State Sen. Lou Correa, to legalize and regulate online poker.
This bill would generate millions of dollars in revenue and create thousands of jobs in California, which will help balance the state’s budget and prevent deeper cuts to essential services. So how do California voters feel about this proposal?
They strongly support it, according to a recent poll of 600 likely California voters by Tulchin Research. The good news for the governor and lawmakers in Sacramento is that the people have strong and clear opinions on the matter:
— 66% of Californians, including strong majorities of Democrats (71%), Decline-to-State voters (68%) and Republicans (58%), support regulating and taxing the profits of online poker.
— By a margin of 65-5%, voters want California-based operators (as opposed to out-of-state operators) in charge of the gaming operations. This number climbs to 76-3% when California operators are compared to off-shore companies.
— 76% of Californians believe California’s trusted gaming partners – those already licensed in the state – should be the ones eligible to operate online poker as opposed to 13% who believe the process should be open to any company.
— Perhaps most significantly, 84% of voters want California to regulate online poker as opposed to nationalized online gaming.
Correa’s SB 40 is predicated upon three key principles:
1. Create a long-term revenue stream for California.
2. Ensure that the jobs created from online poker revenues become California jobs.
3. There must be appropriate regulations to ensure that kids can’t play and those who are eligible and do play, do so without fear of fraud or identity theft.
With such strong public support and the governor and the Legislature eager for new sources of revenue, you’d think it would be a no-brainer for our elected officials in Sacramento to support SB 40 to regulate online poker.
Alas, things in Sacramento are never that simple as there are currently two online gambling bills: the aforementioned SB 40 by Sen. Correa and SB 45 authored by Sen. Rod Wright.
If public opinion is important – and if you heard any part of the governor’s State of the State you’ll know it is (and, as a pollster, I sure hope it is) — then the Legislature and governor should get behind SB 40. Voters support Correa’s vision for online poker and see it as a way to keep California jobs and revenues in the state.
How many jobs, how much revenue are we talking about? According to former California Finance Director Tim Gage, online poker could generate $1 billion over the next decade and create 1,100 new jobs in a variety of industry sectors.
News reports indicate Gov. Brown is open to Internet gambling. “I don’t think it can be stopped,” Brown said last year. “If it can’t be, then there ought to be some way that the state can derive some tax revenue from that.”
The Correa bill would ensure that the benefits of regulated online poker remain in California helping to create jobs and balance the state budget. Even better, voters like its provisions.
Ben Tulchin is founder and president of Tulchin Research, a polling and strategic consulting firm in San Francisco.