Earlier this month, Assemblyman Mike Gatto filled AB 9 in the latest attempt to legalize online poker. With a couple of exceptions, the bill is very similar to those from the past and one that some feel has little chance of passing in its current state.
Marco Valerio of Online Poker Report conducted an interview with Assemblyman Gatto following the filing of the bill. What he reveled during that interview could help to preview the path that this bill could take in 2015.
Gatto is Not a New Player to the Issue
Valerio asked the question that many of us were wondering in what qualified Gatto to introduce this bill. Gatto revealed that he’s been examining the issue since 2001. He was a second-year law student at the time and had classes covering some of the topics raised by online poker legislation. He also studied papers from various authorities in internet gaming law.
Gatto also revealed that he had authored an online poker bill last year, but was asked by the chairman of the GO committee to defer to Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer. He deferred and decided to spend the year researching a framework for the bill and worked out some fresh ideas for the bill. That led to him filing AB 9 for 2015.
The Bill is Just a Starting Point
Later in the interview, Gatto talked about the progression of bills through the state legislature and how that one bill was modified 79 times last year before it was passed. As such, he says that the current draft of AB 9 is by no means the final product. He called it an “opening statement.”
Gatto is also keeping an open mind when it comes to the “bad actor clause” currently in AB 9. He states that he cannot uphold any particular agenda, other than doing what’s best for the state. With that in mind, he wants to make sure that all stakeholders have a chance to participate without the state relying too heavily or favoring one group over another.
Discussions to Be Held With All Stakeholders – Including Amaya Coalition
Gatto revealed that he’d begun meeting with various stakeholders last year prior to being asked to defer on his bill. He cancelled the remaining meetings but has restarted the process of reconnecting with those stakeholders. He specifically pointed out the Amaya coalition and stated that by the end of December he plans to hold a meeting with them to discuss their vision of the bill.
Gatto stated that he’s talked around 40 percent of interested stakeholders and that most feedback has been positive. However, he did state that “there are vast chasms between a lot of different stakeholders that need to be bridged to make this a truly consensus bill. There’s still a lot of work to do and a lot of meetings to have.”
Flipping for Failure?
Gatto made an interesting statement towards the end of the Valerio interview that speaks volumes about the chances for legalization this year. After stating that he was under no delusions, he went on to say that:”This is a very difficult bill. It’s going to be a very, very difficult negotiation and it going to be a long year.”
Ultimately, he stated that there is a”50-50 shot we fail spectacularly once again.”
In essence, one could claim that we are flipping for the life of online poker in California. While this isn’t exactly the most positive spin we’ve seen put on the chances of getting a bill legalized, it may be among the most realistic. The question now is whether the chasms that Gatto mentioned can be spanned sufficiently to push the bill through in 2015.
Prior to this year, we have had online poker analysts and lawmaker all trying to spin a bill of goods and frankly giving off false hope. Gatto’s approach is honest and straightforward and recognizes the challenges faced by all parties.
His willingness to work with all sides and not just take a hard-line position could help shift those odds more in online poker’s favor as 2015 progresses.