Sunday January 3,2016 : THREE BILLS TO BE CONSIDERED BY CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS AT EARLY JANUARY HEARING
 
Online poker, sports betting and daily fantasy sports to be discussed by Government Oversight Committee.
 
In California, the legislature's Government Oversight Committee has given priority to a January 6 hearing on three bills proposing the intrastate legalization of online poker, daily fantasy sports and sports betting.
 
Assembly committee chairman Adam Gray's AB1437, titled the Internet Fantasy Sports Game Protection Act will be among the bills up for discussion and was introduced as far back as September 2015. It has survived an informational hearing last (December) month and includes provisions to regulate, tax and licence the industry.
 
Thus far there has been little overt opposition to the bill from the usual sources – the tribes, the cardrooms and the racetracks – and reactions will be watched closely as the political activity on the issue develops.
 
The legal view of the California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, will also be important and has been called for by committee members.
 
Another Gray bill, AB1441, is also on the agenda for the January 6 hearing, and was introduced by the hard-working GO Committee chairman in September.
 
This bill addresses a gambling genre that is already deeply contentious and has led to prolonged and expensive litigation in New Jersey – the intrastate licensing and regulation of sports betting, which involves getting around the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which restricts such activity to just four US states.
 
The national sports leagues, backed by the Department of Justice, are notoriously adamant that PASPA must stand, blocking individual states from opting for regulated sports betting within their borders and generating much-needed tax and regulatory revenues.
 
Gray has sensibly included a proviso in his proposal that calls for state constitutional and federal permission.
 
Perhaps the most contentious bill of the three January 6 proposals will be that seeking to regulate and licence intrastate online poker.
 
This is a legislative debate that has raged for years as a plethora of interested parties that include online companies, cardrooms, racetracks and tribal groups have grappled unsuccessfully with the issue and a consensus remains elusive.
 
Following the failure of Assemblyman Gray's shell bill AB431 despite passing the GO Committee stage, the front runner in California online poker legalization is veteran Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer's AB167…a perennial effort by the Assemblyman who is tenacious in re-introducing the measure year after year.
 
The bill has been introduced as an urgent measure after stalling at committee stage last year, and Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer is hoping that his latest draft will bring about a general agreement on two major problem areas that have bogged down previous attempts – "bad actor" and racetrack participation clauses.
 
AB 167 has removed both, allowing a powerful cardroom, Pokerstars and tribal alliance, and the similarly influential racetrack lobby, to find acceptance on his proposal.
 
However, other powerful tribal coalitions may continue to call for the inclusion of such restrictive and anti-competitive elements, making for an interesting year ahead in California