California Online Poker Bill Up For Committee Vote This Week, But With Uncertain Future

June 13, 2016
California Online Poker Bill Up For Committee Vote This Week, But With Uncertain Future

California will try once again to advance legislation to legalize and regulate online poker, but with differences that still need to be resolved.

The next step for California for online poker

On the agenda for this week? Assemblymember Adam Gray’s AB 2863 is headed for a hearing and vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. More from the Poker Players Alliance here.

It’s been more than a month since the Governmental Organization Committee approved the online poker regulation bill, with promises to work on it further.

Gray has since amended the bill, with language regarding the suitability of operators, dealing with the so-called “bad actor” debate that has long stunted progress on legislation.

Right now, that language does not have the support of all the stakeholders in California.

Opposition for California online poker

The loudest opponents to online poker regulation continue to threaten the progress of the bill.

The tribal coalition headed by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is not appeased by the new language from Gray.

From a letter that group penned last week:

“Although we have made some progress under your leadership, we regret that your amendments … related to suitability standards and taxation force us to oppose the bill.”

That group wields a great deal of power when it comes to the poker legislation moving forward. But a coalition in favor of the bill continues to grow.

Support for California online poker

A group of 21 stakeholders in the future of California online poker also released a letter on Friday.

Never before have all of these groups — including tribes, card rooms, racetracks and unions — come out with unwavering support of any online poker bill in the state.

From that letter:

We have been working with the Legislature for many years to create a regulatory structure for iPoker, an online version of a game that is already authorized in the California Penal Code.

Are the scales being tipped for poker?

The idea has long held that every tribe needed be on board for online poker to happen in California. Without the support of the Pechanga coalition, it was believed that online poker would always be dead in the water.

But there are plenty of open questions surrounding the bill:

  • Will the bad-actor language — aimed at keeping the likes of PokerStars out of the state — continue to halt progress?
  • Can further compromise on the suitability issue still be found?
  • Are enough groups supporting online poker that the concerns of the Pechanga group eventually be drowned out?

We may find out the answers to some or all of these questions this week.

Joseph Sohm /

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