The online poker bill proposed earlier this week by California Assemblyman Mike Gatto does not sit well with the coalition that includes PokerStars.
To nobody’s surprise, the alliance of PokerStars, three large cardrooms, and two powerful Indian tribes issued a statement denouncing AB 9 as
a rehash of previously unsuccessful proposals. Gatto’s AB 9 excludes both “bad actors” and the horse racing industry, which is sure to continue disagreement among California’s gaming interests as to who is worthy of participation in what is expected to be a lucrative industry.
AB 9 includes language that prohibits those parties who continued operating in the U.S. market after December 31, 2006 from gaining a license, which PokerStars did. However, the bill also mentions that the California Gambling Control Commission can use its discretion in waiving that clause under a
covered assets provision that seemingly pertains directly to the new owner of PokerStars, Amaya Gaming, as Amaya was not in control when PokerStars was operating as a bad actor.
In short, it’s a possible way into the California market for PokerStars and Amaya, but one that is not clear cut. Obviously, Amaya was none too happy with AB 9, stating that the proposal
seeks to establish artificial competitive advantages for some, while denying Californians the best online poker experiences. The PokerStars group goes on to say that AB 9 and any similar proposals
will only serve to divide the community and will be opposed by our coalition.
More of the same in Golden State
Unfortunately, anyone who was under the impression that 2015 could possibly be the year for regulated online poker to become a reality in California better think twice. At least when considering the first bill (AB 9) introduced for the 2015 legislative session.
Gatto’s proposal appears to be more of the same with regard to the lack of finding common ground and the continued bickering among those who have a stake in the state’s online poker industry. The introduction of AB 9 was meant as a starting point for discussion and negotiation, but from the looks of the statement offered by the PokerStars coalition, discussions may never take on a serious tone.
The horse racing industry has not yet responded with their objections to the proposal. But that is par for the course, as the racetracks have in the past reserved comment until an introduced bill begins making headway in the legislative process. AB 9 may never get that far.
We are still waiting for the introduction of a new poker bill from Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer that is rumored to be inclusive of all the state’s gaming interests. Let’s hope that rumor holds true, as any bill that seeks to keep certain parties out will likely continue hindering progress.