For those of who are interested in online poker, things are certainly heating up in California as not one but two online poker bills have been introduced into the legislature, and it looks like 2014 may finally be the year that everyone’s interests are aligned and online gambling will pass in the Golden State.
Both of these bills (one in the senate and one in the assembly) were hot topics at the recently concluded iGaming Legislative Symposium (IGLS) held in Sacramento, California, where the brightest minds in the iGaming world gathered to talk about all things gaming.
In this column we’ll get you caught up on the latest developments in the California legislature as well as the takeaways from the IGLS conference, and we’ll assess California’s chances of getting an online poker bill passed this year.
Update on AB 2291
Assembly Bill 2291 is essentially a rehashing of the online poker bill introduced into the assembly during the last legislative session, with a couple of minor tweaks to help appease some of the more skeptical interest in California.
Among the revisions were changes to the “bad actor” language and number of online domains allowed for each license.
The 69 page bill covers just about every feasible aspect of a regulated online poker market in the state of California. Here are a couple of the key points from the bill:
- Authorizes intrastate online poker; not interstate
- Calls for 10-year, non-transferable licenses, with a fee of $5 million
- Preemptively bans the state from adopting or opting into a federal online gambling laws
Update on SB 1366
If AB 2291 is a rehashing of last year’s bill, SB 1366 is a carbon copy of the Senate Bill introduced last year. In fact, it is the same bill.
SB 1366 has the same aims as AB 2291, but there are several key differences between the two bills, and in the end, if an online poker bill is to pass in California, it will almost certainly be an amalgamation of the two bills.
Here is where the bills are in agreement.
The two bills are both pushing for a ban on interstate compacts, preferring to let California’s population of 38 million strong speak for itself. The two bills are both pushing for immediate implementation as “emergency statutes” which sees the bill become law as soon as it is passed.
How serious is California about going it alone? The Head of the California Gaming Commission, Richard Scheutz, said this at IGLS:
“In the 1990s, Nevada spent millions of dollars trying to keep tribes from entering the gaming industry (during the Prop 5 and Prop 1a campaigns that greatly expanded tribal gaming). Now they want help with their struggling iPoker business? Not going to happen.”
Here are the key differences between AB 2291 and SB 1366:
- SB 1366 allows for unlimited domains (including skins)
- SB 1366 bars any operator that operated in the US after December 31, 2006, permanently—yes, permanently!
You can find a full summary of the original bill from last year (which is the same as this year’s bill) at QuadJacks.com.
One important note is that SB 1366 is a bit friendlier to the tribes than AB 2291, although AB 2291’s new concessions seems to have made it far more appealing, just not quite as appealing as SB 1366. Regardless, at some point compromises will have to be reached if an online poker bill is to pass through both bodies of the California legislature.
Pechanga Tribe still not sold on iGaming
Despite backing AB 2291 the powerful Pechanga Tribe is still not sold on online gambling, considering Marc Macarro, Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians statements at IGLS, “Frankly, we’d prefer not to be in this business. But if it’s going to happen, we have to take the lead.”
Up until last year Pechanga was vehemently against online gambling expansion. However, their new stance (and particularly the reason for the change) is a clear indication that online poker in California isn’t a matter of “if” but of “when.” The writing is on the wall and Pechanga is reading it clearly.
California iGaming Barometer
So what are the chances that an online poker bill gets passed in California this year?
Independent opinions range from slim (about 10%) to reasonable (about 33%) but the one consensus is that a California online poker bill is trending upwards.