Legalized online poker in the state of California cleared a necessary, but fairly easy step on its way to getting a proposed online poker bill passed into law. Online poker bill AB2863 had to clear the GO Committee at a hearing on Wednesday, April 27. The Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization (a.k.a. GO) voted 19-0 (with two members not present) unanimously on AB2863 and now it moves onto the next step… a hearing with the Appropriations Committee. If the bill can pass the tough Appropriations Committee, then the bill will finally have a chance to be debated and discussed (and eventually voted upon) on the floor of the California State Assembly, the lower house of the California State Legislature. If the bill gets the needed 2/3 votes from the Assembly, then the bill moves onto the floor of the State Senate. If the bill gets passed by 2/3 of the Senate, then it heads to the Governor's desk. At that point, it's up to the Governor to veto the bill, or sign it into law. At the present moment, it appears that longtime lefty-leaning politician and throwback from the hippie-heyday of the 60s-70s, Jerry Brown, will most likely sign any online poker legislation if it hits his desk. Alas, AB2863 still has a long way to go.
Last year's piece of online poker legislation passed the GO committee but essentially died on the shelf of the Appropriations Committee. This year's effort seems to be much stronger because the horse racing lobby is now backing AB 2863 with only a few Native American gaming tribes as the most vocal opposition. The horse racing lobby joined a PokerStars-backed coalition after they were guaranteed at least $6 million annual kick down to the horse racing industry. That seemed to tip the scales in favor of pro-legalization, with the opposition shrinking in numbers. The few holdouts included the powerful Pechanga Tribe, which ramped up their uncertainty after the recent insider trading news surrounding the CEO of Amaya, a.k.a. PokerStars' parent company. In order to appease the opposition, the language of the bill was tweaked a week before the GO hearing, which included stronger verbiage on a bad actor clause.
How does online poker bill AB 2863 become a law?
- 1. Approval from GO committee.
- 2. Approval from Appropriations Committee.
- 3. Passage from 2/3 of CA State Assembly (80 members).
- 4. Passage from 2/3 of CA State Senate (40 members).
- 5. Bill goes to the Governor's desk, who has 30 days to sign bill into law or veto it.
We're currently onto Step #2. Still a long road ahead for California, but at least it is a step in the right direction. In the meantime, there's time for both opposing sides to find some middle ground on issues such as the bad actor clause, which essentially makes or breaks the future of PokerStars in California. The bill's overall passage is a big question. So long as the tribes are not united, the outlook for online poker is not promising. Getting the horse racing tribe on the right side of the fence was tremendous, but I'm afraid that an online poker bill will not past until the rest of the tribes all get on the same page. It's only a matter of time, so I have a feeling both sides want to work something out.
Assemblyman Adam Gray
We know unequivocally that Californians are playing these games online every single day on websites that provide zero consumer protections. After countless revisions and meetings with stakeholders and consumer advocates, there remained two key issues raised by opponents: horse racing and suitability. Today we put forward language that settles the horse racing component, and negotiations over suitability continue.