A third, and hopefully final, online poker bill has been filed in California. On Thursday, State Senator Isadore Hall III and Assemblyman Adam Gray filed companion bills in the state legislature that they hope will bridge the gap between rivaling factions in California.
Senate Bill 278 (SB 278) and Assembly Bill 431 (AB 431) are companion bills that at present exist in placeholder mode. This means that the majority of the bill remains undefined and will be expanded upon at a later date.
Sen. Hall and Assemblyman Gray both serve as the chair of the Governmental Organization committees in their respective chambers. This committee oversees all gaming matters in California, instantly making them the most qualified sponsors that we’ve seen to date.
Spirit of Cooperation Needed
Both Sen. Hall and Assemblyman Gray filed a join statement on the bills, stating that California had been trying to legalize online poker for five years and that to this date it only remained a discussion. The pair hopes that by working together, they can build a consensus on the issue that has evaded the state for half a decade.
According to a joint statement filed by the pair, “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.”
Assemblyman Gray issued an individual statement, stressing, “This iPoker proposal must include a strong regulatory framework that protects Californians. We need to crack down on illegal online gaming and replace it with a safe and responsible entertainment option for adults, which includes safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, fraud, and identity theft.”
The pair hopes to create a framework in California that can be copied by all states, and perhaps Congress. Multiple Congressional bills have been floated in recent years, but none have reached a vote. In terms of state legalization, only Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have voted to make online poker legal.
PokerStars – Morongo Coalition Supports Bills
Late Thursday night, the PokerStars coalition issued a response to the bill. The PokerStars coalition includes the Amaya Gaming Group as well as the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, California’s three largest card clubs – the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino and the Bicycle Casino
The coalition issued the following statement:
“We are optimistic about iPoker chances this year now that Senator Isadore Hall and Assembly Member Adam Gray have each introduced an iPoker spot bill this week (SB 278-Hall and AB 431-Gray). As Governmental Organization Committee chairs, this is a significant development and underscores that momentum is building to get an iPoker bill across the finish line in 2015. We will continue to work closely with Senator Hall, Assembly Member Gray and all legislators on the content and approach of legislation in the coming weeks and months.
“Our position on iPoker policy remains the same. We support an iPoker bill which establishes a vibrant, competitive, fully inclusive marketplace with choices for consumers, and which also enacts strong consumer protections; requires strict oversight and regulation of operators and licensees; and ensures a financial return for the state.
“Our coalition strongly believes that to be successful passing iPoker legislation this year, the various interests need to work together. We must abandon the failed policies of the past that divided the various parties. Instead of using the legislative process to pick winners and losers, any successful legislation must allow for a variety of providers to participate in the market while relying on regulators to determine strict suitability standards.”
Will This Be THE BILL to Legalize California Online Poker?
SB 278 and AB 431 are being looked to as possibly the ultimate bill for California online poker. Sen. Hall, Assemblyman Gray and a host of others are hoping that these bills will be used as a general consensus bill between all stakeholders.
While the primary two roadblocks to legalization remain intact, the support for the bad actor clause has softened considerably. Currently, only the Pechanga and associated tribes support a bad actor clause that would ban PokerStars.
Other tribes, including the Rincon have recently softened their stance. Even Caesars Entertainment, once a strong opponent of allowing PokerStars into the United States, has changed their position and now has joined with them in iPoker lobbying.
Details on these bills are still to be revealed but it can be assumed that serious negotiation will commence from all stakeholders in the coming weeks. As thoughts begin to turn towards spring, California residents are hoping that April showers bring May online poker.