Online poker is officially a dead issue for California in 2015. The legislative session ended on September 11 with AB 431 still in a holding pattern in the Assembly and the other bills either pulled or lifeless in committee.
While some lawmaker attempted to feign hope that a bill would pass, most of that went by the wayside once the last hearing for California iPoker was cancelled. Now it is time to look forward to 2016 and many are already debating whether next year will be any different than the last few.
While it is too early to determine whether a bill will pass in 2016, we can tell three things that we learned about California iPoker in 2015.
Pechanga Aren’t as Rigid as They Seem
Prior to 2015, the Pechanga were firm in their stance that the horse racing industry not be allowed to participate and that bad actors should be barred. In 2015 we learned that the Pechanga are willing to budge, on the horse racing issue at least.
Two compromises were presented to the horse racing industry with the most beneficial being a revenue sharing deal that will guarantee that the industry get a piece of the iPoker pie.
The horse racing industry struck down these compromises but it does give a glimmer of hope that the Pechanga might finally come around on PokerStars as well. What if PokerStars were to offer a similar revenue sharing deal with tribes or some other deal that significant benefits the tribes? It’s hard to imagine them passing on such a deal.
PokerStars Has More Support Than Their Contracted Partners
Prior to 2015, it was the PokerStars and their contracted partners against the world. Then Caesars and Rincon came out in support for the company. In essence, they view Amaya as the company and not PokerStars.
This shift in perception has emboldened PokerStars and prompted them to start their own campaign for regulation in California. So far, California citizens have been highly supportive of PokerStars coming to the state.
The new wave of support should put extra pressure on the Pechanga in 2015 and hopefully prompt them to consider some type of resolution to the bad actor roadblock that has helped to hinder regulation for years.
Lawmakers Still Antsy to Move Without Tribal Blessings
Despite rumblings that lawmakers would move forward with a bill in 2015 regardless of Pechanga demands, none of the bills filed came to a vote. AB 431 came the closest but that was a mere shell bill. The only reason it moved as far as it did was because the Pechanga took a neutral stance in the early going.
In the future, it would be wise to ignore any potential discussion of lawmakers “moving forward” without the blessing of California tribes as it is clear they do not intend on acting.
Instead, lawmakers should focus on trying to bridge the gap between the tribes and other stakeholders to try and get a bill moving. The first step would be to work out a working piece of legislation instead of floating filler bills such as AB 431.
Filler bills are a waste of time that do little more than present talking points. We are past the “talking” stage and need to move forward to enacting regulation.