California Appropriations Committee Releases AB 431

California Online Poker Bill Released By Appropriations, Hearings Next Key Step

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A small step forward (or more accurately the absence of a step backward) for California online poker today, as AB 431 was released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

That’s per Chris Krafcik of GamblingCompliance on Twitter:

The activity came only days after dueling letters sent to the Appropriations Committee from coalitions supporting and opposing the bill’s movement through committee.

Get complete details and tracking for AB 431 here.

Statement following suggests escalating, not dissipating, tension

A statement on the Appropriations activity released by the coalition comprised of Amaya, Morongo, San Manuel, the Bike, Commerce and Hawaiian Gardens doesn’t inspire much in the way of optimism that productive discussions are taking place behind the scenes:

Were pleased that AB 431 passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee today. We are optimistic this new development represents another step forward in the growing effort to authorize and regulate online poker in 2015.

“Success is achievable this year when parties come together to collaborate in the best interests of Californians. Toward that end, weve seen a growing coalition coming together in the interest of passing a bill that creates an open, competitive marketplace that protects consumers, provides a financial return for the state, and establishes a strong regulatory system.

“Clearly there is much left to do to draft bill language that meets the needs of Californians for a safe and competitive online market, but success is within our grasp if all stakeholders seriously engage in the process.

“Authorizing online poker will be good for millions of consumers and poker players who will benefit from a safe, regulated environment where they are protected. Our coalition is committed to resolving the remaining issues. We hope others are as well.

A statement from Rincon took a slightly softer tack:

SACRAMENTO – Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians Chairman Bo Mazzetti issued the following statement after Assembly Bill 431 (Gray) passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“On behalf of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, I commend the Appropriations Committee for moving Assembly Bill 431. We thank the Assembly Leadership and Appropriations Chairman for their leadership on this issue.

“Internet poker has been a hotly debated issue for more than a half decade. In the past, progress to reach a compromise stalled once legislation failed to move forward. However, by allowing Internet poker legislation to proceed, lines of communication between stakeholders remain open, allowing the potential for a beneficial resolution between all parties.

“While Internet poker legislation is still evolving, we will continue to work diligently towards a consensus.

“We look forward to continued discussions with stakeholders and the Legislature.”

Hearings next thing to watch

As Krafcik noted, the next two focal points for online poker in California will be hearings currently scheduled to take place in front of the Governmental Organization Committee:

6/24/2015, 1:30 p.m. (Joint Assembly / Senate GO)  — Informational hearing: “The Legality of Internet Poker–How Prepared is California to Regulate It?”

A second informational hearing in front of the joint GO. Again, the hearing does not address any specific bill or result in a vote. I’d expect a lineup and focus relatively similar to the hearing conducted last year.

7/8/15, 1:30 p.m. (Assembly GO)  — AB 9 Gatto; AB 167 Jones–Sawyer.

Arguably the most critical of the group as it could provide a sense of what – if any – final bill is emerging from the process. While the meeting is currently scheduled to cover AB 9 and AB 167, that could change – as could the content of the two bills in the months between then and now.

Deadline approaches, but not a firm one

Expect some to note in the days ahead that June 5 is a deadline for bills to advance out of their house of origin.

That’s technically correct, but somewhat irrelevant in practical terms. As Steve Ruddock discussed at length when a parallel deadline was looming last year, there are a number of common workarounds that make the deadline little cause for worry.

The primary cause for worry remains the apparent inability of the major stakeholders to come to consensus, and the prevailing sentiment that politicians are unlikely to act on the online poker issue without total consensus from said stakeholders.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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