Year after year, countless Californian’s are fed spoonfuls of hope from legislators that online poker will become a state-authorized activity. And year after year, those hopes are dashed by the proverbial guillotine of fate. Such was the case when two of three bills to regulate online poker dissolved in recent weeks, but there’s one last bullet in the chamber, and it belongs to Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.
Earlier this month, Assemblymen Mike Gatto and Adam Gray gave up on their respective iPoker bills, AB 9 and AB 431. Gatto cited a lack of consensus among stakeholders as the reason behind his surrender, while Hall’s efforts were simply (and agreeably) stalled by the cancellation of a hearing to debate his legislation.
AB 167, the measure introduced by Jones-Sawyer, was also supposed to be discussed at that hearing. However, unlike his comrades, he is not willing to give up on the issue quite so easily. According to EGR North America, the Assemblyman has scheduled a new hearing date to consider the minutiae of his Californian online poker bill, set for August.
The Assembly Government Organizations (GO) Committee has already taken recess for the summer, and will not reconvene until August 17, 2015. From there, only 20 legislative sessions will occur before the legislature adjourns for the year. It certainly doesn’t leave much time for AB 167 to reach consensus, but if it’s one last shred of hope the state’s undying online poker community seeks, they’ve at least got that.
Jones-Sawyer Online Poker Bill AB 167
Introduced in January under the title Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015, Jones-Sawyer’s bill seeks to impose a regulatory framework for the state to authorize, license and tax online poker sites in California. The likelihood of passage, however, is dubious, based primarily on two key elements contained within the measure.
First of all, Jones-Sawyer’s legislation would permit pari-mutuel racetracks to participate in the state’s online poker market. There is a large and decidedly influential faction of tribal casino operators, known as the Pechanga Collation, who are vehemently opposed to the horse racing industry being allowed to take part directly (but apparently earning shared revenue or launching affiliate websites would is okay).
Secondly, Jones-Sawyer did not insert a “bad actors” or “tainted assets” clause into AB 167, which would facilitate the viable entry of offshore operators like PokerStars who breached the terms of the UIGEA after December 31, 2006. And again, the Pechanga Coalition is staunchly opposed to any legislation that would supply a license to such strong competitors… er, I mean operators.
Gatto pointed out the inconsistency in stakeholder views when he withdrew AB 9 from the table, stating, “I believe this is the right thing to do at this point because there is no consensus on the issue.”
Three Factions – Zero Consensus
In one corner, we have the horse racing industry who won’t support any measure that doesn’t allow them to participate directly, but doesn’t really care if PokerStars is eligible or not.
In the other corner, we have the Pechanga Coalition who won’t support any measure that allows horse racing or so-called bad actors/tainted assets to participate.
Somewhere in the middle is the PokerStars Coalition—made up of two prominent tribes, the state’s three largest commercial card rooms and the operator’s parent company, Amaya Gaming—who is pushing hard for anything that allows PokerStars to apply for a license.