CALIFORNIA STATE Sen. Rod Wright, a Democrat from Inglewood, wants the state to go all-in with Internet poker. As we've said in the past, this is a bad bet going nowhere.
Wright introduced legislation to make California the first state to legalize Internet poker, but all we're hearing is estimates and possibilities; this is no time to go to the wishing well.
What the state needs is solid planning and a clear path to draw in more revenue and bring down spending to reduce the huge budget deficit.
Wright's plan is to have companies bid for the right to operate three state-sanctioned games, and those firms will have to share at least 20 percent of their gross revenue with the state, whatever that might be.
Wright believes that since 1.5 million California residents wager on 600 overseas gambling websites, that tens of millions of dollars will fly into state coffers.
He estimates licensing fees could bring the state as much as $9 million and revenue-sharing agreements could bring as much as $1 billion. Those are lofty figures, but beware they are merely estimates.
Gambling on gambling to help solve budgets is hardly a good idea in this case. Wright is assuming all Californians will switch to the state's games, which is unlikely.
Consider that there are already so many ways to gamble in this state from Indian casinos to horse tracks to the lottery that to bank so much on this venture during bad economic times is shortsighted and unreasonable.
Even in good times, online poker has not panned out. Sweden has had government Internet poker for several years, but it only garners 30 percent of the countries' Internet market. That won't cut it here.
What about the state's agreement with Indian tribes, who have compacts for exclusive rights to gaming devices, including electronic and video devices? Wouldn't Internet poker fall in that category and, if so, is this really worth forfeiting the $365 million the tribes pay into the state's general fund? Not a chance.
Gambling during tough economic times shows more misdirection and desperation from Sacramento.
We need state lawmakers to fashion a sensible budget that employs a combination of reasonable cuts and productive enhancements on the revenue side that can be sustained over the long haul, instead of relying on gimmicks such as legalizing online poker.