Online poker regulation took a major step forward on Monday after the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee unanimously passed AB 431, allowing the bill to move forward in the legislative process.
The vote came after of a joint hearing of the GO Committee on Monday to discuss the measure. Surprisingly, the bill received very little opposition in its current form and was able to pass. Had the committee failed to move on the bill by Friday, it would have died.
Passage Does Not Mean it Will Reach a Vote
While this was indeed a historic moment in California regulation history, it is actually a small victory due to the nature of the current bill. AB 431 is currently no more than a placeholder bill and lacks details on regulation.
At present, the bill lacks a stance on bad actor, fails to address the horse racing industry and has no real meat in terms of regulation. The only thing that this vote accomplished was that it gave time to interested stakeholders to hammer out the language of the bill.
Surprisingly, major stakeholders let the bill move forward without a single objection. The Pechanga decided to change their stance on the bill to one of neutrality and both the Barona and Agua Caliente Indians followed suit.
Pechanga has made it clear that they will not support any bill that allows the horse racing industry to participate or allows bad actors to acquire a license. Furthermore, Governor Jerry Brown has promised to veto any bill that doesn’t include the horse racing industry. As such, it will be interesting to see if parties can move past the impasse and get this bill to a vote.
Parties Appear Optimistic Following Committee Vote
The major stakeholders in the state all issued statements following the GO Committee vote on Monday. The Amaya Coalition recognized the milestone that this vote represented but also cautioned that there’s a lot of work ahead.
As stated in their statement, “Finalizing the details of the legislation that will regulate California’s online poker marketplace still need to be worked out. But so far, 2015 is different. Hard lines and tough talk have morphed into open minds and dialogue. The vote today underscores the momentum building to help ensure that California finally passes iPoker legislation.”
The Rincon Bank of Luiseño Indians also praised the vote and echoed the sentiments of the Amaya Coalition, stating, “There’s still plenty of work to be done and issues to be resolved. However, the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians is optimistic that this is the year for Internet poker in California. After five years of debates, some of the heavy lifting of crafting legislation has been done. Now, it is time for the stakeholders to come together, end the politics and solve the final issues.
“We look forward to the informational hearings and discussing the issues in greater detail. More importantly, we look forward to finding solutions to the sticking points and common ground through compromise.”
Then there’s the Pechanga. Chairman Mark Macarro issued a statement that reinforced the tribe’s position but does hint at a spirit of openness heading into the summer months. Macarro stated, “We look forward to a meaningful process and arriving at comprehensive legislation that respects California’s longstanding public policy of limited gaming, protects children and the vulnerable, creates jobs, provides additional revenues for the State, and protects consumers and the integrity of the gaming industry from organizations that do not and have not respected U.S. law.”
Three hearings remain on the GO Committee’s agenda and details for AB 431 still need to be defined. The next couple of months will prove vital to whether the state pulls out a last second miracle or if they have to wait until next year to finally legalize iPoker in the state.