New California Online Poker Bill Emerges
Online Poker Report

California Online Poker Momentum Builds As Hall, Gray Introduce New Bill

California coastline
California’s push for online poker expanded today with introduction of a new bill by two powerful politicians.

State Sen. Isadore Hall and Assemblyman Adam Gray have announced the introduction of parallel bills in the Senate (SB 278) and Assembly (AB 431).

Text of statements from various stakeholders follows at bottom.

Why it matters

The involvement of Gray and Hall is significant. The two men chair the Governmental Organization (GO) committees in their respective chambers. The GO’s legislative purview includes gambling, meaning the committee is effectively the gatekeeper for any online poker bill.

The correct way to think about these bills is not as an independent legislative effort, but as a legislative vehicle for the broader effort already underway.

These bills will probably end up being the final destination for whatever consensus approach is agreed upon by stakeholders – assuming such a consensus can be reached.

Bill a simple shell at this point

The bill is three pages long and offers little in the way of detail. It’s effectively a stub at this point.

Why would such a light bill be submitted? Likely because of the impending deadline for introducing bills for the 2015 session – the cutoff is February 27.

Again, think of this more as a legislative vehicle and less as a bill in its own right.

Bill is third on California’s online poker landscape

Hall and Gray’s bill will join two other bills attempting to bring regulated online poker to California.

The first is Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s AB 9, introduced in December. The second is Assemblyman Reggie Jones Sawyer’s AB 167, introduced in late January.

Given the position that Hall and Gray both occupy, it’s highly likely that their bill – basically a placeholder at this point – will become the ultimate vehicle for whatever version of online poker regulation stakeholders find most palatable – assuming we even get to that point.

Impediments to passage remain the same

While the contents of the Hall / Gray bill remain an unknown at this point, what is known is that the two primary stumbling blocks to online poker regulation in California remain the same.

  • The first – so-called “bad actors” clauses – appears to be receding in terms of importance, but still remains a public point of dispute between powerful California factions.
  • The second – the role of California’s racetracks in online poker – is incredibly divisive and has no obvious route to compromise.

It will be interesting to see what approach Hall and Gray take to these two issues, especially the latter.

Statement from the Amaya, Morongo, San Manuel and card room coalition

Tribal, Card Room, PokerStars Coalition Statement In Response to Introduction of iPoker Bills by Senator Isadore Hall and Assembly Member Adam Gray

The following statement can be attributed to the coalition formed by 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 – and the Amaya Gaming Group, which owns and operates PokerStars.  These groups joined together in a formal agreement last year to work jointly to promote legislation that authorizes and regulates intrastate real-money online poker in California.

“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.”

Statement from Hall and Gray

Senator Isadore Hall and Assemblymember Adam Gray Introduce Legislation Authorizing iPoker in California

SACRAMENTO, CA –  Senator Isadore Hall, III (D – South Bay), Chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee and Assemblymember Adam Gray (D – Merced), Chairman of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee today announced the introduction of identical legislation to legalize intrastate Internet poker (iPoker) in California.

SB 278, by Senator Hall and AB 431 by Assemblymember Gray, would specifically authorize the operation of an iPoker website within California’s borders and would require the California Gambling Control Commission in consultation with the California Department of Justice to prepare regulations for the operation of an iPoker website.

Federal law essentially prohibits online gambling by in the United States but does allow individual states to offer intrastate Internet gaming, subject to state regulation to prevent gambling by minors or persons located outside of the state. Currently, only Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey allow for various forms of legal intrastate Internet gaming.

For over five years, a discussion of authorizing iPoker within California has remained only a discussion. No California legislator has ever cast a vote on an iPoker proposal. Hall and Gray serve as Chairmen of each legislative house’s policy committee that oversees gaming within the state and are best positioned to lead a productive dialogue on an iPoker regulatory framework. By working together, their legislation seeks to build consensus on a public policy matter that has eluded California for years.

“The issue of iPoker in California has historically been divisive; dealing legislators, the governor and the public a folding hand,” said Senator Hall and Assemblymember Gray. “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.”

“This will not be a rushed process,” continued Hall and Gray. “Any iPoker proposal must put California taxpayers first and must ensure a safe and responsible entertainment option for adults. If done correctly, this legislation could serve as a national model for other states to follow. We think we can do it and we’re all in to move California iPoker forward this legislative session.”

Statement from Assemblyman Gray’s office

Assemblymember Gray and Senator Hall Announce Joint Proposal to Regulate iPoker in California

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced), Chair of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, and Senator Isadore Hall (D-South Bay), Chair of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, today announced the introduction of identical legislation to regulate intrastate Internet poker (iPoker) in California.

This iPoker proposal must include a strong regulatory framework that protects Californians,” said Assemblymember Gray. “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.”

AB 431 by Assemblymember Gray and SB 278 by Senator Hall would specifically authorize the operation of an iPoker website within California’s borders and would require the California Gambling Control Commission in consultation with the California Department of Justice to prepare regulations for the operation of an iPoker website.

“We intend to develop a framework in California that can be a national model,” said Senator Hall. “This will not be a rushed process. We look forward to moderating an open, honest, and thorough debate.”

Federal law essentially prohibits online gambling by U.S. citizens but includes specific provisions that allow individual states to offer intrastate Internet gaming, provided that state laws permitting and regulating that activity could impose reasonable protections against participation by underage persons or by persons located outside the boundaries of the states. Currently, only Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey allow for regulated intrastate Internet gaming.

“Illegal online gambling happens every day in California on sites operated by unknown persons located in countries throughout the world. Neither state nor federal laws provide any consumer protections or safeguards,” said Assemblymember Gray.

“California needs a strong law that puts a stop to illegal online gambling,” finished Senator Hall.

California Online Poker Momentum Builds As Hall, Gray Introduce New Bill
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Chris Grove
Chris Grove - Chris is the publisher of OnlinePokerReport.com. Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.