California Online Poker Bill Pulled Back For ‘Final Negotiations’

August 9, 2016
California Online Poker Bill Pulled Back For ‘Final Negotiations’

A bill that would legalize California online poker was pulled from the Assembly floor for the time being, perhaps in a final push to pass it in the coming days or weeks.

What we know about the California poker bill

The online poker bill passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee in late June. Since then, however, it has not come up in front of the full Assembly.

The rumor mill had the bill coming up for a possible amendment and vote early in the week, but that wasn’t in the cards — at least not immediately.

California media outlets on Monday were reporting the final language of the bill was still being worked on. The Desert Sun reported on the bill being taken off the floor Monday, “buying more time for negotiations.” More from that story:

Trent Hager, Gray’s chief of staff, said his office hoped to bring the bill back up Thursday.

And from the L.A. Times.

What’s being negotiated in the California online poker bill?

While the above reports did not address the substance of the negotiations, it is quite clear it is about suitability of prospective online poker operators.

The debate over online poker legalization all year has centered on so-called “bad actor language” aimed at keeping the likes of PokerStars out of the market.

The latest “compromise” was not nearly enough to result in the bill moving forward. A coalition of tribes that has taken a hard-line against bad actors wanted PokerStars to pay $60 million AND wait 10 years to enter the California market, in the latest proposal.

A report from last week, however, indicated that compromise might be possible:

Pechanga, Agua Caliente and the Barona Band of Mission Indians have agreed in principle to support Gray’s bill, sources said, but are awaiting draft amendments dealing with the license eligibility of poker websites accused of taking US wagers in apparent violation of federal law.

The content of those draft amendments — which are apparently still being worked on — has not yet surfaced.

Can California online poker reach the finish line?

If compromise has truly been reached on suitability language, that’s at least a possibility. But there are still several factors working against the bill:

  • The bill still has to get through the Assembly, with a two-thirds majority.
  • Without knowing the content of the amendments, it’s not clear whether PokerStars and its coalition will support the bill.
  • The legislature is scheduled to adjourn at the end of the month, giving the bill just a few weeks to get through the Senate.
  • Senate leader Kevin de León told the L.A. times he was in no rush to pass the online poker bill.

Still, the fact that the bill is being negotiated, even at this late hour, at least signals it is not dead. And if it doesn’t pass in August, it could mean the heavy lifting has been done for 2017.

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