Thursday April 28,2016 : CALIFORNIA ONLINE POKER LEGALISATION BILL ADVANCES (Update)
AB 2863 progresses through Assembly Governmental Organization Committee on an 18 vs.0 vote.
California Assemblyman Adam Gray's bill AB2863 proposing the intrastate legalization of online poker survived Wednesday's two hour hearing by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee and advanced on a vote of 18 vs. 0.
Its continued progress marked only the second time in a decade-long series of attempts to get a legalization bill through a California Assembly committee (last year another attempt by Gray managed to get through committee before failing)
Gray's current bill removes the obstacle of horseracing companies competing in the online poker market by offering them a $60 million a year subsidy, but in recent weeks the spectre of the other major hurdle – a bad actor clause – has again emerged.
On Wednesday the horseracing industry supported Gray's bill as agreed in earlier negotiations. Assemblyman Gray said that the horseracing issue had been the principal obstacle to the bill.
However, the bill is still flexible and open in regard to fee and tax rates, which will be key in raising the annual horseracing subsidy.
The Assemblyman said that California was potentially the biggest online poker market in the United States, estimating that over a million California players use offshore sites to play, and that a home- grown legalization solution would give them better protection.
The bad actor issue – which companies should be considered as acceptable partners with Californian land gambling firms based on past activity in the US – remains unresolved and will be the subject of further debate and negotiation as the AB 2863 moves along.
Gray acknowledged it was a difficult issue and revealed that he has been in regular meetings with tribal groups worried about Pokerstars involvement in an attempt to achieve a consensus.
He said that clearly the issue will have to be finalised before the bill can go to an Assembly vote, and that a level playing field for online poker remains a key objective.
The Pechanga tribe of Luiseño Indians, one of the strongest advocates for a stringent bad actor clause, reiterated its position at Wednesday’s hearing, with a spokesman referencing the insider trading charges laid by Quebec financial regulators against Pokerstars' parent Amaya's CEO David Baazov.
Steve Stallings, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, gave his support, but suggested that it was important that tribal groups intending to compete in the online poker market be given sufficient time to prepare against more established and experienced enterprises.
Gray said there was an air of optimism that after years of inability to reach agreement on licensed and regulated online poker, Californians were now "closer than ever" to an acceptable solution.