New Online Poker Bills Coming to the California Senate and Assembly

sealofCaliforniaOn Thursday Chris Grove of OnlinePokerReport.com broke the news that California Assemblyman Adam Gray and State Senator Isadore Hall III were planning to introduce a compromise online poker bill in both the California Assembly and Senate.

This puts the total number of online poker bills currently awaiting action in California at three (four if you count Gray’s and Hall’s individually).

The pair issued a statement that was posted at OPR, but if you’re looking for specifics on what will be in the legislation you’re going to be greatly disappointed. The statement was little more than an overview, outlining only the general intentions of the bill and giving no specifics. However, the pair’s statement, as well as the recent developments in California make it highly unlikely that the bills (AB 431 and SB 278) will have strong bad Actor language or limit racetracks.

The momentum is on the side of racetracks and PokerStars, but the Hall/Gray bill will need to walk a fine line on these issues in order to bring the Pechanga and Agua Caliente tribes to the table, while at the same time being careful not to go so far they lose the support of the PokerStars coalition, racetracks, or the other tribal interests. If the new bills are similar to Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s AB 167 they will be a hard sell to Pechanga and Agua Caliente. If they divert to far from AB 167’s tenets they risk losing the support of the Morongos, racetracks, Rincon, and others.

“It is time to work together, stop bluffing and take control of this issue, Gray and Hall stated. “Our bills do not create winners and losers. Our bills do not take one entity’s side over another. Our bills will give the Legislature, the Governor, tribal governments, other gaming entities, technology providers and the public an opportunity to have an open, honest and thorough debate on this issue.”

GO Committee Chairmen

Hall and Gray both chair their respective Governmental Organization Committees which would be one of the first stops for any online poker bill, as the GO committee has legislative oversight of gambling in the state.

Last year, as a member of the Assembly, Hall chaired the infamous online poker hearing in the GO committee where midway through the partnership between PokerStars and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, along with the Commerce Casino, Bicycle Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens Casino was announced.

During the hearing, particularly after the announcement sent waves through the room, Hall took a conciliatory tone, urging the tribal leaders that were present not to let this singular issue derail all the work and compromise that had been done.

The introduction of a compromise bill is a very good sign, and the two men who are introducing these identical bills also bodes well for online poker in California. But, there is still a long way to go.

Statement from the PokerStars Coalition

Here is the statement issued by the coalition formed by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, California’s three largest card clubs – the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino and the Bicycle Casino – and the Amaya Gaming Group, which owns and operates PokerStars:

“We are optimistic about iPoker chances this year now that Senator Isadore Hall and Assembly Member Adam Gray have each introduced an iPoker spot bill this week (SB 278-Hall and AB 431-Gray). As Governmental Organization Committee chairs, this is a significant development and underscores that momentum is building to get an iPoker bill across the finish line in 2015. We will continue to work closely with Senator Hall, Assembly Member Gray and all legislators on the content and approach of legislation in the coming weeks and months.

“Our position on iPoker policy remains the same. We support an iPoker bill which establishes a vibrant, competitive, fully inclusive marketplace with choices for consumers, and which also enacts strong consumer protections; requires strict oversight and regulation of operators and licensees; and ensures a financial return for the state.

“Our coalition strongly believes that to be successful passing iPoker legislation this year, the various interests need to work together.  We must abandon the failed policies of the past that divided the various parties. Instead of using the legislative process to pick winners and losers, any successful legislation must allow for a variety of providers to participate in the market while relying on regulators to determine strict suitability standards.”

 Joint statement from Hall on Gray

SACRAMENTO, CA –  Senator Isadore Hall, III (D – South Bay), Chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee and Assemblymember Adam Gray (D – Merced), Chairman of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee today announced the introduction of identical legislation to legalize intrastate Internet poker (iPoker) in California.

SB 278, by Senator Hall and AB 431 by Assemblymember Gray, would specifically authorize the operation of an iPoker website within California’s borders and would require the California Gambling Control Commission in consultation with the California Department of Justice to prepare regulations for the operation of an iPoker website.

Federal law essentially prohibits online gambling by in the United States but does allow individual states to offer intrastate Internet gaming, subject to state regulation to prevent gambling by minors or persons located outside of the state. Currently, only Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey allow for various forms of legal intrastate Internet gaming.

For over five years, a discussion of authorizing iPoker within California has remained only a discussion. No California legislator has ever cast a vote on an iPoker proposal. Hall and Gray serve as Chairmen of each legislative house’s policy committee that oversees gaming within the state and are best positioned to lead a productive dialogue on an iPoker regulatory framework. By working together, their legislation seeks to build consensus on a public policy matter that has eluded California for years.

“The issue of iPoker in California has historically been divisive; dealing legislators, the governor and the public a folding hand,” said Senator Hall and Assemblymember Gray. “It is time to work together, stop bluffing and take control of this issue. Our bills do not create winners and losers. Our bills do not take one entity’s side over another. Our bills will give the Legislature, the Governor, tribal governments, other gaming entities, technology providers and the public an opportunity to have an open, honest and thorough debate on this issue.”

“This will not be a rushed process,” continued Hall and Gray. “Any iPoker proposal must put California taxpayers first and must ensure a safe and responsible entertainment option for adults. If done correctly, this legislation could serve as a national model for other states to follow. We think we can do it and we’re all in to move California iPoker forward this legislative session.”

 

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