BY JIM MILLER
SACRAMENTO BUREAU
jmiller@pe.com

Published: 12 June 2012 08:03 PM

SACRAMENTO — Deep differences among members of the state’s politically powerful gaming industry, particularly tribes with casinos, have once again stalled legislation to legalize online gambling in California.

The chairman of the state Senate panel that oversees the gambling industry — and who has spent more than two years trying to craft a bill to regulate online games — suddenly pulled his measure to license online poker. Tuesday’s move surprised dozens of representatives of horse tracks, tribes and others, some of whom had traveled long distances to testify at what was to be the first hearing on the measure.

All indications were that state Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, lacked sufficient support for his bill. Its future is uncertain, as well as the potential $200 million in annual state revenue it would have raised beginning in 2014.

“It needs more time, it needs more work,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, the co-author of SB 1463, said afterward. The legislative session ends Aug. 31.

There has yet to be a legislative vote on an online gambling bill in the nearly three years since some tribes and card clubs began pressing lawmakers to legalize online poker.

Former California lawmaker Lloyd Levine carried the first online gambling bill. He said he is not surprised that there still is no law to show for all of the effort since then.

“Some of them have legitimate policy concerns over positions in the bill,” Levine said of the interest groups. ”Some of them have philosophical concerns. Some of it, candidly, is just self-interest — some of the people who are eligible under the bill don’t have their business partnerships ready.

“By the time you start wrapping all of that up, there’s a lot of different reasons on why they’re not going anywhere. The easiest thing to do is to kill it,” he said.

Potentially dooming the effort this year is that members of the state’s $7 billion tribal-casino industry, a major source of political contributions to lawmakers, continue to be split.

Supporters of the Wright bill include the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, which operates a casino near Valley Center, and the United Auburn Indian Community, which operates a Sacramento-area casino that is among the most successful in the country.

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