The Assembly Appropriations Committee has officially released AB 431 to move forward in the legislative process. This is a historic moment in the history of online poker legislation in California, as the bill will have a legitimate shot of coming to a vote on the Assembly floor sometime this year.
Of course, this is assuming that lawmakers can come to an agreement on the language in the bill and whether other interested stakeholders will cooperate in the process. If recent news is indicative of things to come, the bill may have taken one-step forward only to take two steps back in the near future.
AB 431 Moves out of Appropriations and Into Holding Pattern
On Thursday, Chris Krafcik of GamblingCompliance announced on Twitter that AB 431 would leave the Assembly Appropriations committee and head to the Assembly floor. However, the bill will remain in a virtual holding pattern for the next couple of months as hearings on California iPoker continue.
According to Krafcik, the vote was not a unanimous one as only the committee Democrats voted on the bill. Those that voted all approved the bill to move forward. The bill still remains a single page “shell bill” lacking any real substance and as such has forced some parties to reverse their position of neutrality on the bill.
Pechanga Coalition Reverses Position on AB 431
Prior to the Appropriations Committee vote on Thursday, the coalition led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians sent a letter to the committee changing their position from neutral to opposed.
In the letter, the coalition stated that they took a neutral position out of respect for Assembly Chairman Adam Gray’s leadership and “prior assurance that consensus would be sought before moving forward.”
The tribe continued, stating, “Continuing to pass this measure as a spot bill does not advance a state regulatory structure for iPoker. The issues that divide stakeholders remain unresolved. Moving the bill at this time would be directly counterproductive to any internet poker effort, which we know is not the goal of the author, who has told us he desires to be the neutral party bringing stakeholders together on this issue, if indeed that is possible.”
The coalition urged that the bill not move out of committee but rather be held until a consensus could be reached.
Hearings Next – But Will Any Real Progress Occur?
There are two hearings yet to be conducted on California iGaming and AB 431 will remain in a holding pattern until they are concluded. The first is on June 24 and is a Joint GO informational hearing. It is unknown what tone it will take, but hopefully it will be more productive than the hearing held earlier this month, one that was skipped by the Senate’s GO Chair Isadore Hall and abandoned half way through by over half of the committee.
The final hearing is on July 8th by the Assembly GO committee and is supposed to discuss AB 9 and AB 167. With all the focus on AB 431, there is a chance this could change dramatically.
In the meantime, lawmakers still need to focus on completing the language in AB 431 and deciding whether certain matters will be address. More specifically, will race tracks be included in the bill and will it contain a bad actor clause.
Finally, there seems to be little interest by the Pechanga on compromise concerning either race tracks or bad actors. In addition, lawmakers seem reluctant to act without a tribal consensus regarding iPoker.
Unless things change dramatically between now and July, what will likely result is progress “on paper” but no real results. There’s no reason to believe the Assembly will vote without a consensus and one doesn’t appear on the horizon. However, there’s still time to negotiate and parties will likely try and negotiate until it becomes clear that this will need to roll over into 2016.