Monday February 15,2015 : AMENDMENTS TO CALIFORNIA ONLINE POKER BILL OUTLINED (Update)
AB431 classified as an urgent measure requiring a two-thirds legislative approval.
New details seem to be surfacing almost daily on the latest attempt to legalise online gambling in California – Assemblyman Adam Gray's AB431.
Over the weekend media reports started to emerge on the latest amendments to the bill, including amendment 4 which classified the measure as an urgent issue set for implementation immediately following a positive vote in the state Legislature. That means that Californian lawmakers would have to return a two-thirds majority vote to push the bill through.
The content is still open to debate, but the draft currently proposes:
* The now much-publicised $57 – 60 million subsidy for the horse racing industry to keep it out of any state poker market (see the detail in previous InfoPowa reports);
* Taxes and licence fees as outlined in previous InfoPowa reports, and a restriction of two websites per licensee;
* Licenses will run for 7 years;
* What appears to be an exclusionary proposal that only California Indian tribes and card clubs with a satisfactory five year operational experience record will be eligible for licensing;
* An exclusionary proposal barring licensing for entities that are currently accepting gambling business contrary to California or federal US laws;
* Partnerships between card clubs and Indian tribes will be permitted;
* Legalisation is confined solely to online poker, defined as a game between players and not involving any type of player-to-dealer or player-to-banker relationship. There is a specific exclusion of Pai Gow as a banker-involved game;
* Both cash games and tournaments are envisaged, and flexible per-hand charges are authorised on cash games, but not a rake of the pot;
* Tournament admin fees are permitted;
* A player minimum age limit of 21 years is proposed, with poker accounts created in person on the premises of a licensed operator or through telephone, internet or mail;
* ID and geo-location verification technology must be deployed by operators;
* There are stringent financial and money laundering controls;
* Contravening the new law will be a felony, with appropriately severe punitive consequences. The bill makes provision for a Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Fund to be used to investigate illegal gambling;
* Operators must offer full 24/7 support for customers, with staff based in California;
* Servers, bank accounts and records must all be located in California, and service providers must grant access to state officials on demand;
* Access to problem gambling services and advice must be provided by operators, along with facilities to limit betting and self-exclude. Software must also inform players of time spent playing, loss and deposit limits;
* Once the measure has been approved, state regulators will have 270 days to draft regulations. Any Californian licensed operator in good standing will automatically qualify for online poker licensing;
* Operators must give 90 days’ notice before ceasing operations on a website, and the regulator can intervene if necessary through the courts;
* California online poker legalization will be automatically repealed on January 1, 2024 unless specifically extended by the state legislature.