New Online Poker Bill Introduced in California

New Online Poker Bill Introduced in CaliforniaAs expected, an online poker bill was proposed in California for the 2015 legislative session, as the state tries again to pass ipoker regulations.

The bill, AB 9, is entitled the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015. It was introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto and prohibits participation from the horse racing industry and so-called bad actors.

Both of those issues were sticking points that contributed to the lack of success of previous bills, and we can seemingly expect discord among Golden State gaming interests on AB 9 as well. The state’s racetracks, and the coalition of two powerful Indian tribes, three of California’s largest cardrooms, and PokerStars, will not go down without a fight.

Gatto serves as chairman of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and is reportedly volleying his proposal without being swayed by any tribes or cardrooms. He prepared the proposed legislation on his own and seemingly is amenable to making modifications regarding both PokerStars and horsemen.

Here’s a Good Idea

While many observers will note that excluding both of those groups certainly won’t fly, Gatto’s bill does have one good idea that most everyone will likely agree upon. The Assemblyman’s measure requires initial deposits and certain withdrawals of online poker players to be processed at casinos or service centers specifically approved to facilitate such transactions.

That would likely promote foot traffic at casinos, as well as take away the potential for money laundering, and keep minors from being able to gamble and collect. While the anti-online gambling activists continue to go on and on about the possible dangers associated with regulation such as fraud and underaged access, requiring a physical presence for transacting funds could go a long way in finally shutting them up.

If online poker and gambling legislation is ever seriously considered at the federal level, I would urge lawmakers to think about including this requirement in some form or fashion. For that matter, individual states that have enacted regulation or are ready to consider it themselves should also look into taking a page out of AB 9 in that respect.

Expect at Least One More Proposal

Industry observers certainly don’t expect Gatto’s bill to be the only one introduced this month in California. Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer promised to tinker with the language of the proposal that he volleyed in the 2014 legislative session.

Let’s hope that his offering includes both racetracks and bad actors because past history tells us that the bill won’t go very far without it. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that the failure of the state’s gaming interests to find common ground on ipoker for the past five years has gotten tiresome. Hopefully, 2015 will be the year that progress is made and online poker regulations are approved.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett