Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, reversing an earlier position, says he has joined a group opposing online gaming because of concerns that young people could be harmed.
“I was once on the wrong side of this issue – speaking for and supporting internet poker – but I have since learned about some of the tactics used by online gaming companies to lure young people,” Brown wrote in an open letter released Thursday, referring to the use of cartoon characters in promotional materials and the young’s access to computers.
Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, also said online gaming “has not delivered the tax revenue that supporters promised, leaving cash-starved states scrambling to fill in gaping holes in their budgets.”
The internet poker market in California is believed to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, but exact estimates are elusive. The Legislative Analyst reported in April that the illegal online gaming activity generates some “$300 million to $400 million (annually) in gross revenue from Californians participating in online poker.” A legalized market presumably would capture much of that revenue, and more.
Currently, negotiations are under way in the Capitol over two pieces of legislation – AB 2291 by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, D-Inglewood, and SB 1366 by Sen. Lou Correa, Santa Ana, that would authorize internet poker in California. Three other states – New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware – already have internet poker.
Legislation to allow online gaming has failed several times in California during the past five years, in part because of the inability of tribal interests to reach a compromise on how the system would be set up and who would be allowed to participate.