Third Time the Charm? GO Committee Chairs File New California Online Poker Bill

Written By James Guill on February 24, 2015

Will a third time prove to be the charm in California? This past week, a third California online poker bill was introduced by two legislators with a significant background in state gaming issues.

One Thursday, Assemblyman Adam Gray and State Senator Isadore Hall filed companion bills AB 431 and SB 278, bills they hope will finally achieve a goal set by lawmakers over five years ago.

These bills are currently shells only, lacking any real details but both sponsors aim to make the bills the final destination for California iPoker legislation. The sponsors laid out their intentions for the bill in a joint press release.

As stated in the release, “The issue of iPoker in California has historically been divisive; dealing legislators, the governor and the public a folding hand. It is time to work together, stop bluffing and take control of this issue. Our bills do not create winners and losers.

“Our bills do not take one entity’s side over another. Our bills will give the Legislature, the Governor, tribal governments, other gaming entities, technology providers and the public an opportunity to have an open, honest and thorough debate on this issue.”

What Advantages Does This Bill Have Over the Others Filed

On the surface, the filing of this bills appears to be a bit of overkill due to the fact that AB 9 and AB 167 already seem to address most issues. However, both bills tend to go to the extreme favoring one side or another. This new bill looks to bridge the gap and make a comprehensive piece of legislation that satisfied all stakeholders. In addition, there are a couple other things working in favor of this bill.

First, Senator Hall and Assemblyman Gray are the heads of their respective Governmental Organizational (GO) committees, making them the most qualified among those currently pursuing iPoker legislation. Their understanding of the California gaming market will uniquely position them to work with interested stakeholders.

Next, sentiments regarding the bad actor clause and PokerStars’ involvement in California have significantly softened in recent weeks. The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, Pala Band of Mission Indians, and United Auburn Indian Community have all recently changed their stance on the bad actor clause and now support PokerStars coming into California.

Furthermore, Caesars Entertainment has also reversed their position and now welcomes the possibility of PokerStars operating in the United States. One can also assume that bwin.Party also approve of PokerStars’ involvement since they are partnered with the aforementioned tribes.

Bill Could Go to the Wire or Possibly Roll Over to 2016

The last thing that anyone wants to hear is that California iPoker legislation will take time, but that appears to be what the lawmakers are saying for this bill. In their statement, they stressed that the bills passage “will not be a rushed process. Any iPoker proposal must put California taxpayers first and must ensure a safe and responsible entertainment option for adults. If done correctly, this legislation could serve as a national model for other states to follow. We think we can do it and we’re all in to move California iPoker forward this legislative session.”

As you can see, Gray and Hall have high aspirations for this bill. Knowing this, don’t expect any significant movement towards passage until closer to the end of the legislative session. Should negotiations move slowly, which could be the case when dealing with the Pechanga; this bill may have to be revisited in 2016.

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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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