Wednesday May 27,2015 : INTEREST GROUPS MANOEUVRE FOR ADVANTAGE IN CALIFORNIA
There are those who want AB431 to progress out of committee….and those who do not.
The sharp differences of opinion among two of California's main alliances on the legalization of online poker was demonstrated yet again this week when the Pechanga tribal coalition sought to halt the advance of the favoured legalization bill, AB431, out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee where it currently sits, and the Morongo-Pokerstars-Cardroom grouping which wants the measure to progress immediately.
Our readers will recall that AB431, authored by Rep. Adam Gray, is still an incomplete shell subject to amendment, but was nevertheless the first such measure in the last seven years of disagreement to get past the Assembly Government Organisation Committee last month.
The Pechanga grouping is made up of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians; the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians; the Barona Band of Mission Indians; the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians; the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians; the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation; the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.
Leaders of the group wrote to the chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week in advance of a scheduled vote by the committee later today (Wednesday 27 May), urging the members of the committee to oppose for now progressing the bill further.
The letter points out that the group supported the bill passing out of the Government Organisation Committee on the understanding that a consensus would be sought before it was further progressed
"Continuing to pass this measure as a spot bill does not advance a state regulatory structure for iPoker," the letter continues. "The issues that divide stakeholders remain unresolved. Moving the bill at this time would be directly counterproductive to any internet poker effort, which we know is not the goal of the author, who has told us he desires to be the neutral party bringing stakeholders together on this issue, if indeed that is possible."
The letter goes on to emphasise the importance of the issue as a public policy matter with long term financial implications for the state and the interested parties within it, noting that important disagreements remain, including eligibility for licensure and suitability standards – a veiled reference to the group's opposition to the involvement of Pokerstars and the racetracks in any emerging regulatory regime.
It suggests that there is no need to rush, because a two-thirds vote could accommodate an urgency clause, circumventing procedural deadlines.
Assembly committee chairman Gray will always have the ability to bring forward a bill with that urgency clause, to try to put together a final deal, the letter concludes, urging the committee to hold the bill until consensus can be achieved.
Taking an opposing view, a letter from the coalition of Amaya-Pokerstars, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, major California cardrooms Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino and Bicycle Casino, asks the Appropriations Committee to progress AB431, advising:
"We strongly support authorizing online poker in California and commit to what we understand will be a deliberative process to develop, and ultimately approve, a bill in 2015 to authorize iPoker and establish a safe California market.
"We know that finalizing the policy that will ultimately regulate California’s online poker marketplace will not be quick, nor will it be easy. The stagnation of the last six years has made that obvious. But so far 2015 has been different. Hard lines and tough talk have morphed into open minds and dialogue.
"Authorizing online poker will be good for millions of consumers and poker players who will benefit from a safe, regulated, commercial gaming environment where they are protected. Every year that California fails to act not only puts consumers at risk while playing online games from offshore localities that provide few protections and regulations, but our state also loses out on collecting hundreds of millions of dollars that can be used for essential programs like public schools, public safety, healthcare and social services.
"Our coalition is committed to putting in the hours and the time necessary to establish a vibrant, competitive marketplace, one that provides superior consumer protections, requires strict oversight and regulation of licensees, and service providers, and ensures that the state receives a reasonable return."