An online poker bill has finally emerged from committee and has a chance to move through the legislative process. However, the bill still has to overcome all of the issues still plaguing lawmakers for years.
The first of four hearings on online poker regulation in California was held today by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee (GO). The purpose of the hearing was to discuss AB 431, the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Adam Gray, the GO chairman. At the end of the hearing, the bill was unanimously passed and will now move forward in the legislative process.
Bill Details to Be Worked Out at a Later Date
At present, AB 431 is merely a placeholder bill lacking any real substance. It fails to address bad actors, the horse racing industry or even provide simple data such as a tax rate for sites.
These matters will be negotiated by stakeholders prior to the bill moving on to an Assembly vote. The main purpose behind moving this bill forward was to keep it alive on the legislative agenda. Had the bill not moved out of committee by May 1, it would have been killed.
No Official Objections at Time of Filing
The surprising part of this hearing was that there were no objections filed by any major stakeholders. Even the Pechanga coalition filed a neutral view on this bill despite originally coming out in opposition.
The only person to speak out against the bill during the hearing was Rev. James Butler from the Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. He said that the coalition strongly opposed the bill due to concerns with underage gambling and problem gambling.
Important Step Forward for California
Amazingly, this is the first time in history that an online poker bill managed to move out of committee. Granted, it does so without any real substance and with potential major opponents taking a “wait and see approach” to the bill.
The Pechanga, Barona and Agua Caliente Indians are all concerned that bad actor language and racetrack participation will be added to this bill. Their concerns are obviously legitimate due to the lack of information in the bill and the promise of a veto by California’s Governor should the bill fail to address horseracing concerns.
Regardless, this is a positive step forward in the process and will hopefully open the door for other bills to receive serious consideration. In addition, AB 431 will be filled out in the near future and we should start to see whether the process has a chance in resulting in legal online poker in 2015.
Hearings, Hearings and More Hearings
This was just the first of four hearings on online gambling. The next will take play on May 20 and will primarily serve as an informational hearing with discussion on online gambling in general and participation by the horse racing industry.
The third hearing will be on June 24 and the structure of this hearing has yet to come into focus. Expect this hearing to be heavily influenced over the developments during the month of May.
The final hearing will be on July 8 and will address AB 9 and AB 167 and could address other bills and concerns depending on what transpires prior to the July. This may be when we have a finalized bill emerge or when the process towards that goal begins.