California Online Poker Bill Amended, In-Person Registration Requirement Axed

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According to a press release, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto (pictured) will be making tweaks to his proposed intrastate online poker bill (AB 9), removing language that required players to register at a brick-and-mortar casino. Gatto commented, “My goal remains creating a sensible framework for a new California industry. That will involve a thoughtful process of consultation with all of the key stakeholders. I pride myself in listening; I expect this process will continue throughout the year.”

The Golden State lawmaker said of allowing online sign-ups rather than forcing would-be players to schlep to a brick-and-mortar casino, “After meeting with security experts and hearing from poker players and industry professionals, I have concluded that online poker would be best served by making in-person registration an option rather than a requirement. State-of-the-art technology currently used by operators in other states when registering players accesses many of the same databases used by financial institutions to verify the identity of registrants and prevent fraud.”

The bill could also impose harsher punishments on non-regulated operators, although that language has not yet been added. The press release noted, “Gatto is considering raising the sanctions against the operators of unauthorized online poker operators, making it a felony for those who illegally offer real-money games to players in California and offering additional resources to the Attorney General to enforce the new regime.”

AB 9 was unveiled in Decemberand continues to include a “bad actor” clause saying that a license will not be granted to “entities and persons who knowingly engaged in unlawful internet gaming after December 31, 2006.” In that group would be sites like PokerStarsand Full Tilt, which did not bail from the US market until Black Friday in 2011. However, whether those sites were engaging in “unlawful” activity remains to be seen.

Gatto closed his press release by highlighting the importance of listening to others while AB 9 and other bills are being developed: “These amendments are derived from time-tested business practices that have received significant support from stakeholders. Lawmakers should listen to feedback from experts as they seek to form sound public policy.”

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