As promised, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer introduced an online poker bill to be considered during California’s 2015 legislative session.
The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015 is the second online poker bill proposed in the state in as many months, and looks to be a bit more palatable to California’s gaming interests as a whole than the measure volleyed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (AB 9) in December. Racetracks are allowed to participate along with cardrooms and Indian tribes in Jones-Sawyer’s measure (AB 167), while horsemen had been scratched from the program under the Gatto-sponsored bill.
The latest proposal contains no specific “bad actor” clause, which also differs from the bill introduced last month. But AB 167 does include language that may exclude PokerStars by prohibiting those who have“contemptuously defied a legislative investigative body” of any state, the U.S., or jurisdictions in foreign lands “when that body is engaged in the investigation of crimes relating to poker ….”
Parties involved getting closer?
The reintroduction of this legislation comes on the heels of a very thoughtful and collaborative discussion process that included substantial input from both the state’s Department of Justice and Gambling Control Commission,” Jones-Sawyer stated in a press release. “The dialogue over the past year has allowed us to reach even broader consensus and mutual agreement as to who will be able to participate in providing internet poker to our citizens.”
Other particulars of the proposal include its urgent status, meaning that both chambers of the state legislature must vote to approve by at least a two-thirds majority; a $10 million deposit by licensees, with license approval subject to a four-year period that is renewable; 8.5% tax rate; playing on or hosting unlicensed poker sites would be a felony; and the bill does not explicitly rule out interstate agreements.
Previous ipoker bills proposed in the Golden State had been specific regarding intrastate poker only. The fact that AB 167 is not brings a glimmer of hope to the regulated states and others who may eventually join the online poker party in the U.S. Tapping into California’s potential player base of 38 million could be a jackpot for Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.
“We have reached a new starting point,” Jones-Sawyer added. Whether that starting point can arrive at a finishing point remains to be seen.