California iPoker Likely Dead for 2015 After Bills Pulled From Hearing

Written By James Guill on July 15, 2015
California iPoker bills are dead in the water. Hopefully 2016 will bring better news in this regard.

It now appears that the issue of online poker regulation in California is all but dead following the decision by two bill sponsors to pull their proposals from this week’s Assembly Governmental Organization Committee hearing.

Assemblymen Mike Gatto and Reggie Jones-Sawyer decided to pull AB 9 and AB 167 from this week’s hearing with Gatto outright stating that his measure is dead for the year. Such an announcement hasn’t been made by Jones-Sawyer but his decision to pull the bill speaks volumes.

Gatto shelved AB 9 last week, stating that the time was right to abandon the bill for 2015. Jones-Sawyer’s decision to pull the bill has effectively stated the same. The only measure remaining is AB 431, but with the lack of movement in recent weeks, that bill is certain to be abandoned as well.

Failure to Compromise with Horse Racing Industry May Have Led to Decision

There is still a large divide between stakeholders in California, with the most prominent being between the Pechanga and the horse racing industry. The Pechanga offered a pair of compromises that included revenue sharing and affiliate marketing but those proposals were rejected by the racing industry.

Lobbyist Robyn Black recently gave PokerNews three reasons why they were unwilling to accept such compromises. Among those reasons included a lack of trust between tribes and the racing industry, the fact that the industry took a big hit the last time that tribes were able to expand on their won and that the industry has the right to participate.

With the horse racing industry unwilling to accept anything less than an equal playing field, the matter of bad actors became a moot point. Governor Jerry Brown has stated that he would not pass an online poker bill that didn’t address the horse racing industry. As such, it is pointless to continue pursuing a bill that will not pass.

What Happens Now?

At this point, we sit back and wait for the official shelving of AB 167 and AB 431 for 2015. From there, stakeholders need to start working towards a compromise on major issues.

The first order of business should be to find a resolution to the inclusion of the racing industry. Since their inclusion is a requirement by the Governor, a compromise is needed before any serious consideration for a bill can happen.

In term of PokerStars, let them continue to lobby throughout the state and wait to see whether they open in New Jersey. How they perform there could help influence the Pechanga, especially if PokerStars inclusion actually benefits all sites like is expected.

Lawmaker should set a goal to have a compromise with the horse racing industry in place by the end of the year or January 2016 at earliest. Then they can focus on the matter of bad actors. Failure to reach a compromise with the race tracks will likely leave us in the same spot as we are now and hoping that “next year” is the year California iPoker becomes legal.

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James Guill

Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

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