2016 was supposed to be the year – the year an online poker bill had a real chance of making it’s way through the Assembly, past the Senate, and into the home’s of Californians as a legally, state regulated activity. While probabilities certainly seemed higher than in past years, thanks to new developments last week, those hopes have all but extinguished.
Yesterday, rumor had it Assemblyman Adam Gray was pulling the presentation of AB 2863 off the docket for Monday’s legislative viewings. As of this moment, the online poker bill’s status still remarks its intended “3rd reading” in the Assembly today, and it’s still listed as item 211 on the agenda of the government website’s Committee Hearings for Monday, August 22.
But according to sources – whether the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act is heard today or not – the odds of it making past the Assembly with a required 2/3 vote is slim; yet not as slim as getting further approval from the Senate.
New Opposition from Tribes
This news came as the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and Lytton Band of Pomo Indians began lobbying hard against the online poker bill, following a few last minute adjustments on Thursday.
Last week, the bill was formally amended with a “bad actors” clause that would lock PokerStars out of the market until 2022. The Viejas/Lytton Bands argue that the 5-year lockout shouldn’t begin until California deal’s it’s first hand of licensed and regulated online poker, ensuring the global iGaming giant won’t begin a backlog of court proceedings to delay the entire industry, thereby reducing it’s so-called “penalty box” to an absolute minimum.
David Quintana, a lobbyist for Viejas, said, “They can jam up the regulatory process to make the penalty box as small as possible. They might throw in some legal challenges, anything they can think of to shrink the five years.”
Those tribes are also opposed to the lack of a fine in the amended text of the online poker bill. They are pushing for the return of a “delayed tax” fine for PokerStars; such as the $20 million penalty that was included in previous amendments.
Online Poker Bill “Doomed”?
But the Viejas/Lytton Bands aren’t the only ones opposed to the legislation. The Morongo and San Manuel Bands of Mission Indians, who teamed up three of California’s largest commercial card rooms in a partnership with PokerStars, (collectively, the PokerStars Coalition), are also lobbying against AB 2863, but for the opposite reason.
The Morongo/San Manuel Bands want all mention of “bad actors” removed from the legislation entirely.
Conversely, the Pechanga Coalition, another group of influential tribes that – up until now – included the Viejas and Lytton Bands, is actually on board with the newly amended 5-year penalty (despite previously demanding it be increased to 10 years with a $60 million fine).
“Unfortunately,” read a statement from Morongo/San Manuel, “the bill is now doomed to fail and this means millions of Californians will continue to be at risk while playing on offshore, illegal online sites.”
Requirements for Passage
In order for the online poker bill to get anywhere, it must receive 2/3 votes from the 54-panel Assembly at today’s hearing (where it may or may not even receive attention). From there, it would have to pass the Senate, as well, and there’s only 8 days left for all of this to happen.
Prior to this week’s new oppositional developments, Trent Hager, Assemblyman Gray’s Chief of Staff, told the media he believed the bill “should receive two-thirds in the Assembly”, and projected it “will be fairly well received in the Senate.”
One way or another, the next few hours will play a key role in determining the fate of online poker in California, at least for 2016.