The battle to legalize online poker in California has resumed with the filing of a new online poker bill. Assemblyman Mike Gatto filed Assembly Bill 9 (AB 9) on Monday and the bill has been largely compared to the tribal bill released during the summer.
While many parts of the bill remain the same as those seen in the past, a few new elements include modified bad actor language and the requirement of in-person account registration. A Senate version of the bill has yet to be filed.
Legislators Covering All Bases With Bad Actor Language
As expected, AB 9 includes a bad actor clause prohibiting any company from offering online poker in California that accepted bets in the United States following the passage of the UIGEA. However, this time around the bill has added language that would seem to target Amaya and their purchase of PokerStars.
Under the language any company that has “purchased or acquired the covered assets of any entity” that violated the UIGEA would be banned from entry into the California iPoker market. Amaya Inc purchased PokerStars earlier this year and that purchase will likely allow the company to enter the New Jersey market. The bad actor language in AB 9 would seem to prevent that.
However, there is language in the bill that may provide a loophole for Amaya to bring PokerStars into California. In essence, a company that purchases the assets of a UIGEA violator may be able to enter into California if the applicant “demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence” any of several criteria.
The one most applicable to the Amaya situation would be that “The applicant’s use of the covered assets in connection with intrastate Internet gaming will not adversely affect the integrity of, or undermine the public confidence in, intrastate Internet poker or otherwise pose a threat to the public interest or to the effective regulation and control of intrastate Internet poker.”
With the new language, the door is now cracked open in such a way to allow Amaya to negotiate PokerStars’ entry into California. It is unclear what type of clear and convincing evidence that the company will have to provide but one will assume that Amaya is already at work building their case to present to the state.
In-Person Verification of Accounts and Initial Deposits Required
One interesting addition to this bill is the requirement that all players will be required to register for their account in person. According to the bill, players will be able to register “in person at the land-based gaming facility operated by the licensed operator or at a satellite service center” operated by the card room. These satellite centers are required to be either a land-based card room or a tribal casino.
Next, players will have to make their initial deposit at a live card room or casino. Future deposits will be available through online means. Also, some withdrawals will need to done in person. The bill currently leaves the amounts of those withdrawals blank but one can assume it will probably be for larger amounts to ensure proper IRS tracking.
While an inconvenience for players, this is one way that card rooms and tribes can ensure identity verification of players. Depending on how many rooms go online, some players may find it difficult to register depending on where they live in California.
Horse Racing Industry Still Left Out
One glaring omission from AB 9 is horse racing tracks. The bill will only permit card rooms and tribal casinos to offer online poker. Prior to the stalling of SB 1366 and AB 2291 earlier this year, the horse racing industry had hinted that they would challenge any bill in court that did not include them.
It would seem unlikely that the horse racing industry would be completely ignored in this process so it might just be a matter of time before they are added to a bill. It could come in a future Senate version of the bill. Regardless, this issue will need to be addressed at some point to prevent future gridlock.