Friday January 23,2015 : NEW ONLINE POKER BILL INTRODUCED IN CALIFORNIA
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer launches AB167.
California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a veteran state politician who has been in the forefront of previous (failed) online poker legalization drives, has introduced a new bill to the Californian House.
Titled AB 167, the bill takes a more moderate approach to that adopted by Assemblyman Mike Gatto in a similar initiative (AB 9) that is still being fine-tuned
In a press statement Thursday, Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer announced the launch of his AB 167 Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015, saying it would establish a framework to authorise qualified entities to operate intrastate Internet Poker websites.
“The reintroduction of this legalization comes on the heels of a very thoughtful and collaborative discussion process that included substantial input from both the state’s Department of Justice and Gambling Control Commission," the Assemblyman claimed.
"It is absolutely essential that we have a proper regulatory structure in place that provides safe and compliant internet poker access.”
The bill makes provision for tribal gaming facilities, licensed card rooms and in-state horse racing associations, to be reviewed extensively by the Department of Justice to determine their suitability before they are able to apply for an operator license.
Key takeaways of the bill include a required one-time licensing fee of $10 million dollars and mandatory gross gaming revenue payments of 8.5 percent made quarterly to the state.
Other requirements include:
* The duration of a licenses will be 4 years;
* There will be as yet unspecified annual and application fees;
* Licensed operators can offer online poker on two websites under a single licence;
* Regulations governing operators must be promulgated within 270 days of passage;
* The bill is to be regarded as an urgency statute, requiring a two thirds vote for passage;
* Players must be aged 21 years or more;
* Interstate player pooling compacts are not expressly prohibited;
* It includes provision for an Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Fund to finance enforcement actions against unlicensed operators.
In addition, the bill makes any violations of its provisions a felony…including players on unauthorised sites.
Internet poker was first discussed over seven years ago in the State Legislature, but there has never been a vote in any committee on any previously introduced bill, Jones-Sawyer claims, adding that he is hoping to change that this year.
“We have reached a new starting point. The dialogue over the past year has allowed us to reach even broader consensus and mutual agreement as to who will be able to participate in providing internet poker to our citizens. My goal of setting a standard in California that is the shining example for the entire nation remains unchanged,” the Assemblyman said.
Two key elements appear give the Jones-Sawyer bill a better chance of success this year: it seems to have removed "bad actor" provisions and should therefore appease the powerful alliance of Pokerstars, major card rooms and tribes against such clauses ; and it allows the influential race tracks to participate.
Whether that will be agreeable to other powerful tribal alliances who have previously insisted on such exclusions remains to be seen.
There are generalised provisions regarding prior criminal conduct by an applicant that could theoretically be applied, but these would not on the face of it appear to target Pokerstars' new owners, Amaya Gaming.