With September 11th fast approaching, lawmakers and online poker supporters in California are already looking forward to next year. There are too many unresolved issues remaining for any type of last-second miracle.
While online poker failed to pass in 2015, there were still many key milestones that lawmakers can build on for 2016. Today we go over some of those milestones as well as some keys to getting a bill passed next year.
Changing Opinions and Pechanga Compromise Among Major Steps Forward
Some argue that 2015 was a banner year for the regulation process in California. While a bill wasn’t passed, this past year may setup the foundation for possible passage in the next year or two. Below are some of the major accomplishments in 2015:
• AB 431 Moves Out of Committee – For the first time in history, lawmakers got a bill out of committee. The shell bill AB 431 was able to make it to the Assembly floor but remains in a holding pattern.
• Shifting Opinions on Bad Actors – One major step forward was the shift in opinion on bad actors by some groups. Three tribes (Rincon, Pala, and United Auburn) changed their opinion regarding bad actors and now support PokerStars operating in California. Caesars Entertainment also announced a similar shift in opinion.
• Multiple iPoker Hearings Held – For the first time ever, California held multiple hearings on iPoker. While some did not live up to expectations, the issue is being discussed seriously by lawmakers and we did get a better idea where some factions stand.
• Pechanga Offer Compromise to Horse Racing Industry – In a surprise move, the Pechanga offered a pair of compromise options to the horse racing industry en lieu of their operating an online poker site in California. A revenue sharing agreement and affiliate program were the offers ultimately rejected by the industry.
• PokerStars Begins Propaganda Tour – PokerStars started the group Citizens for Responsible iPoker and also began their PokerStars Pro Tour in the hopes of mobilizing citizens to support online poker. Their “Let CA Play!” initiative received nationwide attention.
Keys to Success in 2016
Looking forward to 2016, lawmakers and stakeholders are already working out a plan of attack for iPoker legislation. We all know the issues, so it is matter of devising the quickest way to get those issues resolved so a bill can move forward.
Here are the keys to successfully passing iPoker regulation in 2016:
• Establish a Regulatory Vehicle Bill Early – This process needs one solid bill that is fully drafted and can be used as the primary vehicle in 2016. Regardless of which clauses it does or doesn’t have, a complete bill is needed so that lawmakers and stakeholders have something to launch from and work together on.
• Horse Racing Compromise Needed – We’ve argued that the horse racing industry needs to revisit the idea of compromising regarding iPoker. They should either reconsider one of the prior offers made by the Pechanga or establish new talks to work towards a solution. A bill cannot pass without their inclusion, so in a way it is more important than bad actors.
• Resolve the Bad Actor Issue – It is clear that the support of a bad actor clause is beginning to wane for some tribes and support for PokerStars is continuing to grow. It is time for lawmakers and stakeholders to work towards a compromise with the Pechanga or to attempt and move forward without them. This issue cannot be allowed to hold up the process any longer.
• Begin Work on Other Minor Issues – There are other minor issues that need to ironed out in addition to race tracks and bad actors. However, with all the focus on the major problems, the minor ones have been ignored. Start addressing each of these issues, starting with the regulatory issues and try to iron them out so that a march towards a vote can happen.
• Bring a Bill to a Vote in 2016 – California got a bill to the Assembly floor in 2015 and the next step is to get one ready for a vote. It the first couple of keys on this list can be met, then there should be little stopping a potential vote. Then we can find out which groups have the clout and how close we are to legalizing iPoker.