Online Poker Bill AB 431 Moves to Assembly Floor for Vote – But Not Anytime Soon

2324325147_6bea71b62c_z-300x200While most of the poker world began focusing on the 2015 World Series of Poker, California lawmakers were busy trying to push through AB 431. On Thursday, the Assembly Appropriations committee approved AB 431 and allowed it to move forward to the Assembly floor for a potential vote.

The news was first reported on by Chris Krafcik of GamblingCompliance via Twitter:

Now that the Appropriations Committee has approved the bill, it can move forward to the Assembly floor to be voted upon, but don’t expect a vote anytime soon.

Bill Moves Forward But No Guarantee on Vote

While the Thursday vote was indeed a historic one for iGaming legislation in California, it is not a guarantee that the bill will pass or even come to a vote. For starters, the bill didn’t receive overwhelming support as Krafcik revealed via Twitter:

Committee Democrats had enough votes to move the bill forward, but many challenges remain in this bill before it has a chance to pass. First, a pair of hearings lies ahead for the bill and the industry and those will not conclude until July.

Next, the issues that have stalled bills in the past have yet to be resolved. The matters of bad actors and race track participation loom large in the state and threaten to hold up matter. AB 431 still needs to be finalized, as it is merely a shell bill. Until that happens, we really will have no idea which way stakeholders will vote.

What Needs to Happen to Pass a Bill in 2015?

The big question remains whether an online poker bill will pass this year. At this point, the chances seem better than they did merely a month ago but they are still somewhat long.

First, the two big elephants in the room need to be addressed and a consensus reached. At this point, Pechanga has not expressed any willingness to negotiate on the matters of bad actors and race tracks.

The Pechanga coalition is the big key to finally moving forward with a bill because of their perceived legal clout in the state. Lawmakers have expressed trepidation in moving forward with a bill without a consensus on a bill and any bill that fully sides with the Pechanga will have backlash from the PokerStars coalition that includes the Morongo tribe and three of the largest card rooms in the state.

Simply stated, Pechanga needs to soften their stance on bad actors or some type of concessions need to be made by PokerStars before a bill will be able to move forward. Perhaps PokerStars can agree to stay out of the market for the first two to five years.

Another concession could be that PokerStars releases their proprietary contact information to all interested parties so that all parties have the same advantage in marketing. Tribes seem overly concerned that PokerStars has a major competitive advantage over the tribes, so what happens if PokerStars released the information that gives them that perceived advantage?

Once the bad actor issue is resolved, the race track issue becomes less of an obstacle. There have been discussions ranging from subsidies to limited participation already floated by lawmakers. If the tribes come to a consensus on bad actors, we will likely see them find some type of common ground on race track participation.

If these matters can come to an amicable resolution in 2015, we will see a bill passed. Otherwise, we will be here next year talking about the latest bill and the odds of passage.

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