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California Online Poker Bill to be Amended

When California Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced an online poker bill last month, he indicated at the time that AB 9 was being offered as a starting point and that changes would be required before the final version was achieved.

The first amendments to AB 9 have been announced via press release and Gatto has decided to scrap the idea of requiring in-person appearances for initial deposits and certain withdrawals. That provision in Gatto’s proposal received considerable criticism and the lawmaker showed his flexibility by nixing the idea.

After meeting with security experts and hearing from poker players and industry professionals, I have concluded that online poker would be best served by making in-person registration an option rather than a requirement,” Gatto said.

Gatto’s initial thoughts were that the anti-online gambling crowd who are concerned about fraud, money laundering and minors accessing gaming sites would be appeased by the in-person requirement. He has since apparently become convinced that he was perhaps trying to fix a problem that exists only in the minds of those who oppose online poker and gambling.

“State of the art technology currently used by operators in other states when registering players accesses many of the same databases used by financial institutions to verify the identity of registrants and prevent fraud,” he added.

Penalties for unregulated operators

Another change to AB 9 may come in the form of sanctions against gambling sites that accept players within the state of California. Gatto is pondering including a provision that would make it a felony for offering real-money gambling action to the 38 million who reside in the Golden State.

No mention was made whether players might also be penalized. It appears that the main idea behind the felony amendment is to protect the intrastate ipoker industry that California is attempting to develop.

Californians already participate in online poker, but send their dollars overseas,” Gatto explained. “By regulating and legitimizing this industry we will increase security, protect business owners, and keep our money here in the Golden State.”

What about bad actors and racetracks?

The latest press release, which Gatto posted on his official website, makes no mention of other portions of AB 9 that were not very popular among some. The contentious “bad actor” issue included in the bill remains a sticking point, as the coalition that includes PokerStars, tribes and cardrooms have already objected to the measure, calling it “a rehash of previously unsuccessful proposals.”

Also left out of the initial bill was California’s horse racing industry. But Gatto continues to insist that his proposal is a work in progress. His latest comments show his desire to get an online poker bill passed that will please the gaming interests involved no matter how long it takes. Consultation with those interests and being open to their concerns are all part of his plan.

“I pride myself in listening,” Gatto stated. “Lawmakers should listen to feedback from experts as they seek to form sound public policy. I expect this process will continue throughout the year.”




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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.