Online poker progresses in California

Online poker progresses in California

Thursday, April 28, 2016
Assemblyman Adam Gray has vowed to reach an agreement concerning a 'bad actor' clause

Online poker could be legalised in California “this year” after a bill that would allow it was passed by a state committee.

After two hours of testimony and debate on Wednesday, Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 2863 bill was passed by 18-0 in California’s Assembly Governmental Organisation Committee. It must now be passed by two-thirds of the full Assembly before being progressed to the Senate for a final vote.

During Wednesday’s hearing Gray told lawmakers that his bill offers “consumer protections” to California’s existing online poker players, while fellow supporters pointed out that the state’s residents can already easily access illegal and unregulated sites should they wish to play. Several people who spoke in support of the bill also noted the Assembly’s support of a bill regarding daily fantasy sports, which was moved forward largely because of consumer protection concerns.

Witnesses backing the bill included a coalition of PokerStars-led supporters from across the industry and representatives from the state’s racing industry, which is set to receive $60m (€52.8m) per year in funding from online gaming under the terms of the legislation.

The bill’s progress was welcomed by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, which owns Harrah’s Resort Southern California.

“Today’s vote marks a turning point on the issue,” said the Rincon Band’s Steve Stallings. “For the first time, we have moved closer to a consensus with tribal governments, cardrooms, horse racing industry and labour groups supporting a safe and secure environment for Californians to use today’s technology to play poker.

“We know and understand the complexity of this issue and know that more work is needed. However, with the momentum established today, an internet poker bill can and will pass this year. We look forward to continued discussions with stakeholders and the legislature.” 

Opponents included members of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and the Pechanga and Agua Caliente tribes. While the Coalition, led by Sheldon Adelson, chief executive of Las Vegas Sands, is against any online gambling, tribal opponents want a ‘bad actor’ clause, which would ban operators such as PokerStars that traded in the US after 2006, to be included.

The bad actor clause continues to be a sticking point for the bill, with a number of news sources suggesting the legislation will not pass the Assembly if a compromise cannot be reached.

“While we have not yet come to a consensus on this issue, through recent meetings with tribal leaders, we have made serious progress,” said Gray, who added that he would meet with opponents every two weeks with the hope of coming to agreement over the clause ahead of the Assembly vote.

TotallyGaming.com says: “A coalition in favour of online poker has developed in California, but it will need to bolster its ranks if Gray’s bill is to pass. With New Jersey having overcome obstacles to introduce online gaming three years ago, it should not be beyond California’s major players to find a way to progress.”

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