Addition Of Urgency Clause Removes CA iPoker Legislative Deadlines

Influential California State Senator Keeps Door Open For Online Poker

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An urgency clause was included last week in Internet poker legislation being sponsored by California Sen. Isadore Hall, a move one Capitol Hill source said would seem to negate public reports the bill has been shelved for the 2015 session.

“I don’t think he’s closed the door” on SB 278, which would regulate and tax iPoker, said a source close to Hall who requested anonymity.

The urgency designation allowed SB 278 to beat a Friday deadline that would have effectively killed the measure.

Will he, won’t he

Lobbyist David Quintana, who represents the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and the California Tribal Business Alliance (CTBA), was quoted in the June 5 edition of Capitol Weekly as saying Hall will not hold a hearing on Internet poker in the 2015 session.

“He said he will not be setting or hearing any internet poker bills this year,” Quintana told the publication.

The source disputed the remark.

“That’s not what he (Hall) told me,” the source said. The urgency designation, the source said, “gives the senator some options.”

The source did, however, acknowledge Senate hearings have not been scheduled and chances for passage of poker legislation remain slim if some 15 politically powerful tribes remain split on “bad actor” issues and inclusion of horse racing as an eligible website operator.

CTBA clarifies online poker position

Meanwhile, one of three tribal members of CTBA sent out a one-paragraph letter June 15 to iPoker bill sponsors distancing itself from the Capitol Weekly report.

“Pursuant to recent media reports, it may be inferred that [CTBA] is opposed to the Internet poker bills currently before the California State Legislature,” Robert Smith, chairman of the Pala Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, said in the letter.

“Given the important and sensitive nature of this policy matter, CTBA felt it was critical to clarify the record with the chairpersons of the respective committees of jurisdiction, as well as the authors of the bills.”

Pala, which owns Pala Interactive, an online operator in New Jersey, is one of five tribes seeking passage of draft bills in the California Senate and Assembly.

Viejas is one of about 10 tribes opposed to legislation that would license race tracks and Amaya/PokerStars, which is accused of taking U.S. wagers after passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

Hall is chairman of the Senate Government Organization Committee, which has jurisdiction over gambling issues.

What’s next?

Friday was the deadline for bills to be moved out of the house of origin. But designation as an urgency measure excludes SB 278 from legislative deadlines for most fiscal legislation.

It also would mean the bill would go into effect immediately rather than at the beginning of 2016, which would be the case for most legislation passed this session.

An informational hearing on online poker is scheduled for Wednesday before the Assembly Government Organization Committee.

Additional hearings are scheduled this summer for iPoker bills sponsored by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Mike Gatto.

The legislation deadline for bills in the 2015 session is September 11.

AB 431, a “shell” or “spot” bill with little language sponsored by Assemblyman Adam Gray, chairman of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, has gotten through both the GO and Appropriations Committee and is in the Assembly’s inactive file.

“This issue is alive – very much so,” Gray told Capitol Weekly. “We’re in the process of holding stakeholder meetings. Do we want to establish a framework for internet poker or do we want to do nothing?

“Those are the only two choices.”

- Dave Palermo is an award-winning metropolitan newspaper reporter. He has written about American Indian governments for more than 20 years, working as an advocate for several tribes and tribal associations. He also has co-authored books on gambling and gambling law.
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