Dan Morain

All the Big Shots showed up for Internet poker hearing

While the Senate had its Day of Reflection to contemplate ethical obligations, the Assembly turned its attention to the task at hand, whether to legalize Internet poker in California.

All the big shots were there, crowded into Room 4202, under the portrait of Jesse M. “Big Daddy” Unruh, in a hearing overseen by Assembly Governmental Organization Committee Chairman Isadore Hall, a Los Angeles-area Democrat.

Lobbyists, members of major casino-owning tribes, organized labor, card rooms, racetrack interests, Nevada interests, former legislators and legislative-staffers-turned-casino-interest-representatives, and many more were there.

As I made my way over to Jack Gribbon of Unite-HERE, the union that represents many casino workers and hopes to represent more, I think I stepped on one of former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt’s feet.

Gephardt, who didn’t flinch, was there representing the online gambling entity, PokerStars, which hopes to get a piece of the action, despite its run-in with the feds in which it agreed to pay $731 million to settle civil charges.

PokerStars, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and several Los Angeles-area card rooms announced today that they’ve formed an alliance in anticipation of Internet poker becoming legal.

Also there was a representative of Las Vegas and Macau casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands chairman who opposes online poker. Adelson’s rep was scheduled to testify among the very last set of speakers, ironically enough along side moral opponents of gambling. We at The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board take a dim view of Internet poker, too, but perhaps for different reasons.

Sen. Kevin de Léon, D-Los Angeles, the incoming senate president pro tem, had finished his ethics training, and became engaged in one of the hallway conversations.

He told me that it was “quite plausible” that there would be an Internet poker deal by the end of this session in August, so long as there is sufficient money for the state and taxpayers get “the most bang for the buck.”