Wednesday April 29,2015 : PROGRESS AT LAST IN CALIFORNIA ONLINE POKER
Legalisation bill AB 431 makes it out of committee.
Monday could prove to be a memorable date in online poker following the historic first passage through a legislative committee of an online poker legalization bill in California.
Assemblyman Adam Gray's AB431 represents progress at last after years of failures while politicians struggled to find common ground among the numerous competing interests that either want an exclusive slice of the online poker cake or wish to hold it at bay.
But, as industry observers hastened to warn after the bill passed the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee Monday, there's still a long haul ahead, strewn with potential obstacles.
They point out that progress was more a matter of ducking procedural deadlines than actually achieving consensus, and that Gray's bill is a flexible device that will inevitably see content additions and changes in the future.
The important thing about its passage is that there is still interest and commitment among California lawmakers in pursuing the issue of legalised online poker.
Conflicting tribal demands remain a major obstacle to achieving a measure that most interested parties can support, and these will undoubtedly still have to be overcome.
Some tribes favour "bad actor" provisions that would keep major companies like Pokerstars out in the cold, whilst others feel that the regulator has enough knowledge and experience to deal with bad actors on a case by case basis.
Other tribes want to exclude the powerful racetracks lobby from the internet opportunity, whilst some would like to see tribal exclusivity, or tribal and cardroom entities dominating any legalised industry.
Assemblyman Gray observed that building a consensus will have to continue if the bill is to survive.
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who has also submitted a proposal, agreed, commenting:
"I've got to honestly believe we still have two major issues that we've got to focus on like a laser. We've got to get all the parties in the room – which I'm going to say again – we've got to get all the parties in the room, and have the kind of dialogue that gets us to a yes. We may not satisfy everyone, but I think if everyone gives a little on both sides we will get there."
San Manuel chairwoman Lynn Valbuena was optimistic, and said that her tribe's alliance with cardrooms and Pokerstars parent group Amaya illustrated a desire for an inclusive approach.
"We're closer than ever to see a consensus emerging," she claimed.
The Poker Players Alliance made an appearance, with California director Steve Miller emphasising that consumer safety was the main priority, and urging involved parties to put aside negativity and work towards a market where all could benefit, but chiefly the consumer.
At least one member of the committee warned that he would exercise a negative vote in the future unless consensus on the content of any legalization bill was achieved.
The next hurdle for AB431 is a joint informational hearing by the combined Governmental Organization Committees of the state Assembly and the Senate titled "Overview of Gambling in California" which is scheduled to take place on May 20.