California lawmakers have another online poker bill to consider during the 2015 legislative session as Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer introduced AB 167.
Jones-Sawyer sponsored a bill last year as well and seems confident that his latest proposal may finally get the job done in California, whereas repeated attempts in previous years have fallen short. In a press release, the lawmaker indicated that “mutual agreement” has been achieved regarding the gaming interests who are part of his proposal for Internet poker regulation.
Those gaming interests include the state’s horse racing industry, Indian tribes and cardrooms. AB 167 lacks “bad actor” language, which would allow the coalition consisting of PokerStars, card clubs and native tribes to also participate.
That coalition released a statement that applauds Jones-Sawyer
for his thoughtful approach to iPoker legislation in California which takes into account many years of input from stakeholders on all sides. The statement goes on to say that representatives for the PokerStars coalition continue to analyze the details of the bill, but remain encouraged that online poker discussions will move
forward in a positive direction.
Jones-Sawyer’s bill is the second online poker measure put on the table for 2015 following a bill offered by Assemblyman Mike Gatto last month. Gatto’s AB 9 was met with considerable criticism, especially from the PokerStars coalition, when bad actor language was present.
AB 9 also excluded the state’s horse racing industry and took many by surprise by proposing a requirement of in-person deposits and for some withdrawals. Gatto has since stated that the in-person clause would be removed.
AB 167 was filed as an urgent statute that requires approval from two-thirds of the state legislature for passage. The bill also would make make it a felony for Californians to play online poker on unregulated sites. The same holds true for unlicensed operators who target the state’s players.
Licensees would be required to deposit $10 million as a deposit toward an imposed tax rate of 8.5%. Licenses would be valid for four years and renewable upon expiration.
Jones-Sawyer also left the door open for interstate partnerships by not insisting that the bill be intrastate-only. Previous bills in the Golden State had attempted to restrict the proposed online poker regime to within state boundaries.
That is good news for regulated states, as well as other state legislatures who may be considering online poker legislation of their own. California is the largest state in the country with some 38 million residents.
However, interstate agreements to pool players is likely one of the last issues that California legislators will debate, if at all. There are other more pressing details that will receive far greater attention.
However, with both racetracks and PokerStars included in the latest offering by Jones-Sawyer, it appears that California is closer than ever before toward finally approving online poker legislation. After repeated tries in years gone by, perhaps 2015 will be the year!