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Time Running Out for Regulated Online Poker in California

Posted on by John Lathram

California Poker BillWith limited opportunities remaining to enact laws before legislators take their final recess, time is running out for regulated online poker in California.

Legislation to regulate online poker in California is looking unlikely to be passed in 2016 due to the limited opportunities remaining in the Assembly and Senate to enact Adam Gray´s “Internet Consumer Protection Act”.

Both Houses are currently on their summer recess and, on their return, only have the month of August to consider Gray´s proposals before starting the final recess for the year. Furthermore, with deep divisions between the stakeholders, there is a long way to go before either side can claim the two-thirds majority required in both Houses before the legislation can be passed.

Not a Good Way to Start a Holiday

According to Dave Palermo at OnlinePokerReport.com, Adam Gray´s summer holiday did not start on a high. A June 27 meeting with a coalition of tribes opposed to the current suitability language in Gray´s bill apparently deteriorated into a heated argument after the Assemblyman arrived with two camera operators and a law enforcement officer. He then allegedly started the meeting by reeling off the criminal code for threatening a public official.

Three days later, and a proposed full hearing of the “Internet Consumer Protection Act” on the Assembly floor had to be abandoned when Gray discovered the bill was well short of the two-thirds majority required to send it from the Assembly to the Senate. Advocates of regulated online poker in California are still optimistic that the twelve or so votes needed to pass the bill can be found before the end of August. However, they fail to mention that a swing of “twelve or so” votes in the opposite direction would defeat the bill.

Finally, just as Adam Gray was packing his toothbrush for his summer vacation, news broke that the Pechanga coalition of tribes had offered a “bad actor concession”. The concession removes the coalition´s permanent opposition to bad actors, subject to operators that supplied a service to Californians after 2006 being banned for ten years and being fined $60 million when they are eventually allowed to apply for a license. PokerStars has already condemned the concession as unconstitutional and attacked the coalition for being obstructionist.

What Dates are Left to Pass a Bill?

The Californian legislature reconvenes on Monday August 1. The first deadline the “Internet Consumer Protection Act” has to beat is Friday August 12. This is the final day that committees will meet and hear bills; and, as the bill to regulate online poker in California still has to be passed by the Senate GO Committee (once it has been passed by the Assembly), there is only a very small window of opportunity available – particularly as the Assembly and the Senate GO Committee may have more pressing issues to discuss.

Thereafter, IF an agreement is reached with regard to suitability language, IF the twelve or so votes can be found in order to get the required majority in the Assembly, and IF the Senate GO Committee agrees to the tax schedules in the current version of the bill, the proposals to regulate online poker in California will be heard by the full Senate. Any amendments to the proposals have to be finalized by Friday August 19, and the bill has to be passed by Wednesday August 31 or else regulated online poker in California will be shelved for another year.

According to Dave Palermo, there are no plans for Adam Gray to meet with the coalition of tribes opposed to bad actors during the legislature´s summer recess – making it extremely unlikely that any agreement for suitability standards will be reached before time runs out for regulated online poker in California – for 2016 at least.

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