It appears that California Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) is serious about working with all side towards legalizing online poker in the state. On Thursday, his office issued a press release that detailed key amendments to AB9. The most important of those amendments eliminating the requirement that new accounts and initial deposits be made in person.
In the press release, Gatto reiterated his desire to work with all stakeholders in the process. He stated…
“My goal remains creating a sensible framework for a new California industry. That will involve a thoughtful process of consultation with all of the key stakeholders. I pride myself in listening; I expect this process will continue throughout the year.”
Live Registration and Deposit Now Optional
The most controversial part of AB9 besides the bad actor clause was the requirement that new players register for an account at a live casino or card room and their first deposit must be made live. Many, including this reporter, felt that it put an undue burden on new players and that it would prohibit growth in areas where casinos and card rooms were not a convenient drive.
According to Gatto, “After meeting with security experts and hearing from poker players and industry professionals, I have concluded that online poker would be best served by making in-person registration an option rather than a requirement,. State of the art technology currently used by operators in other states when registering players accesses many of the same databases used by financial institutions to verify the identity of registrants and prevent fraud.”
In the three legal states, players have the option to register and deposit at a brick and mortar casino but it is not a requirement. Electronic payment methods have proven convenient and secure and the states have been working with banks to soften restrictions to provide even more payment options.
Gatto Considering Whether to Prosecute Non-Regulated Sites
The other amendment under consideration for AB9 is one that would prosecute non-regulated online poker sites in the state. If added, the amendment would make it a felony for a non-regulated site to offer services to California residents. This would effectively force sites such as Bovada to pull out of the state.
The amendment would also provide additional resources to the Attorney General and law enforcement to combat illegal online poker operators. Washington State has a law on the books making online poker illegal in the state but they have not pursued operators. It is unknown if California would act alone on this prosecution or enlist the aid of the federal government to prosecute for UIGEA violations.
Amendments a Positive First Step
While these amendments fail to address larger concerns regarding AB9, they are a positive first step towards bringing the bill to an actual vote. The spirit of cooperation shown by Gatto is one that may help bring the bad actor issue to a resolution sometime this year.
Gatto has stated before he plans to continually meet with all stakeholders and work towards a solution that benefits the state and its residents. Early on, it appears that he is keeping that promise and in doing so, he has raised the hopes of many hoping to play poker in the Golden State.