California i-poker bill passes committee vote

By David Cook
California has moved one step closer to becoming the fourth US state to have regulated online gambling, after i-poker bill AB 2863 was unanimously passed by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee.

The bill was passed 19-0 at a hearing, but it was evident at the hearing that certain tribal divisions are opposed to the bill, including the Pechanga and Agua Caliente tribes, with their stance being that “bad actors” should not be allowed to operate in a regulated market.

Operators that did not pull out of the US after the implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 have not been singled out and banned by AB 2863, including PokerStars, and that is what the term “bad actors” refers to.

A coalition was formed in 2014 between PokerStars owner Amaya, two tribes and three card clubs, to campaign for regulated i-poker in California, and the operators plan to join together to operate a licensed online poker site in the state if and when the market becomes regulated.

Progress was made on the matter last year when AB 431 was approved by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee, but no more progress was made.

That bill was introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray, the same man behind AB 2863, though the latest bill is a joint effort between Gray and Assembly-member Reginald Jones-Sawyer, who himself sponsored online poker bill AB 167, that was introduced last year.

Where this year’s bill differs from last year’s effort is that it details specific regulatory language.

The terms of AB 2863 outline that the first $60m generated each fiscal year would be put into the California horseracing industry.

The legal age for play would be 21.

Gray said: “After countless revisions and meetings with stakeholders and consumer advocates, there remained two key issues raised by opponents: horseracing and suitability. Today we put forward language that settles the horse racing component, and negotiations over suitability continue.”

The bill will now be re-referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and two thirds of the votes are required for the bill to pass to the Senate.

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