It’s probably a little too early to get super excited just yet, but Wednesday afternoon saw a California legislative committee pass a bill that would regulate online poker in the Golden State with some suggesting the law could pass in 2016.
The Assembly Governmental Organization Committee passed the bill unanimously on Wednesday. The bill – AB 2863 – came with two important caveats that could signal progress as the state deals with multiple stakeholders all looking for their piece of the regulated online poker pie.
“We know unequivocally that Californians are playing these games online every single day on websites that provide zero consumer protections,” said Adam Gray, the California assemblyman responsible for the bill. “After countless revisions and meetings with stakeholders and consumer advocates, there remained two key issues raised by opponents: horse racing and suitability. Today we put forward language that settles the horse racing component, and negotiations over suitability continue.”
The horse racing industry now appears to support AB 2863, largely thanks to a $60 million subsidy that the legislation provides. Suitability is referring to the “bad actor” language that has been present in previous bills in California that could limit the presence of companies that took customers from California prior to legislation being passed – most notably PokerStars.
While there are still some California tribes that oppose any inclusion of PokerStars, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians are fully on board. They are part of a coalition that includes The Commerce, The Bicycle Casino, Hawaiian Gardens and Amaya.
“After eight years of analysis and discussion, today’s milestone vote marks the strongest step forward by California to create a regulated iPoker market that establishes vital consumer protections,” said Robert Martin, Morongo Tribal Chairman.
During Wednesday’s hearing John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, showed committee members the number of offshore sites that currently accept players from California.
For the bill to become law, it would need to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the next step – the California Assembly. Should that happen the bill would then head to the Senate for approval.
“While we still have more work to do, I am confident that this legislation and this method can serve as a model for the rest of the nation,” finished Gray. “California needs a strong law that puts a stop to illegal online gambling, and that is what we have crafted.”
Should the bill become law, California would be the fourth state to regulate online poker, joining Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.