GOOD NEWS FROM THE U.S.A.
 
Positive moves in California and Pennsylvania…but the latter was a cliff-hanger.
 
Online gambling progressed in California and Pennsylvania Wednesday….but at one point it looked as if yet another failure due to VGT confusion would scuttle legalization in the latter state.
 
Both states held committee stage debates involving online gambling. In the Pennsylvania House lawmakers were presented with a massive set of amendments on A08621 to Rep. George Dunbars HB2150 (seeking to legalise daily fantasy sports) as other politicians sought to use his bill as an omnibus vehicle to further other forms of gambling expansion.
 
It was almost a reprise of the situation in May this year in the House in which an online gambling bill failed because lawmakers were confused on what they were voting for (see previous InfoPowa report).
 
After barely an hour of debate the current amendments – one of them the legalization of online gambling – sought by A08621 were rejected, chiefly due to continued fierce opposition to the expansion of land video gaming terminals which the land casino operators have consistently fought.
 
Fortunately, lawmakers then briefly caucused and agreed on a new bipartisan amendment – A08734 – which effectively packaged online gambling and daily fantasy sports legalization as standalone issues incorporating both Dunbars DFS proposal and John Paynes online gambling HB649. This immediately passed on a vote of 116 vs. 80.
 
The vote now requires the approval of Paynes House Appropriations Committee but appears set for a vote on the House Floor today, and possibly even a Senate vote.
 
With just a week of the present legislative season left before lawmakers adjourn, time remains of the essence…and legislators remain preoccupied with the budget, which is still being argued.
 
Over in California, the indefatigable Assemblyman Adam Gray was again driving his controversial online poker legalization bill AB2863 in the Assembly Appropriations Committee…and despite continued opposition from the Pechanga tribal alliance he managed to get the bill to the floor for a full vote in the hopefully near future.
 
He was aided in doing this by the support of a powerful 35-member alliance consisting of tribal, cardroom, horse tracks and operators that included the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, the United Auburn Indian Community, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.
 
The Gray bill included the proposals by Appropriations Committee chair Lorena Gonzales especially regarding the "bad actor" provisions which lay down a cut-off date of December 2006, after which any activity in the US market is considered to fall under the "bad actor" definition. That leaves Pokerstars in the clear.
 
There is also an alternative which would allow companies who illegally accessed the US market between 2006 and 2011 to apply for licensing after a five-year waiting period. This could be reviewed if the offending operator was prepared to pay a $20 million penalty.
 
Any operator servicing US online poker players after 2011 remains subject to a total ban on even applying for a licence.
 
There are also restraints on the use data (i.e. player lists) previously accrued by applicants which might give them a competitive edge over newer operators starting out in the California market once legalization is achieved.
 
The amendments include a provision reserving ten percent of all gaming revenue collected by the state for the General Fund, regardless of whether a previously agreed $60 million threshold for a subsidy to the horse racing industry is reached.
 
These provisions – especially the bad actor element – have been vigorously opposed by the Pechanga group, ensuring that the bill will continue to face tough opposition on the Assembly floor and in the Senate.
 
Assemblymen Gray was able to get the bill to the Assembly floor, which is a good start, although observers have pointed out that he achieved the same success in getting his bill out of committee last year, only to see it unvoted and expired at the end of the legislative season