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Hopes for the possibility of regulated online poker in California have once again been raised with the introduction of AB 2863 last week by Assemblymen Adam Gray and Reginald Jones-Sawyer.

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 Simplifying the California Online Poker Situation

Known as the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2016, the proposal puts in writing a $60 million annual payment to the state’s horse racing industry to keep the racetracks from operating poker sites. The horsemen have heretofore been adamant about being included as online poker operators – and have Governor Jerry Brown’s support – but that $60 million yearly subsidy may be an offer that can’t be refused.

Some industry observers are of the mind that the $60 million figure was tossed out there in order to get the state’s stakeholders to the bargaining table to keep talking and that the final amount, if accepted, will be considerably less. In any event, the MAJOR sticking point of getting Internet poker legislation passed in the Golden State has been over whom to include or exclude as operators. In that regard, consider AB 2863 to be significant progress. The racetracks are both included and excluded to some degree.

Also on the positive side of the ledger is the absence of language designed to keep certain participants out, namely, poker operators that continued to service the U.S. market post-UIGEA. The bad actor issue, considered the other main obstacle to passing ipoker legislation, has lost a bit of its strength after New Jersey gaming regulators gave the green light to PokerStars last year.

The possibility of Internet poker regulation in California has likely advanced with the latest proposal volleyed by Gray and Jones-Sawyer. However, there remain several areas of concern to players and potential operators.

Drawbacks of AB 2863

The idea of paying a stakeholder to stay away from online poker has its detractors, some of whom have gone so far as saying that the bill’s sponsors have done nothing more than muddy up a complicated situation even further. There are no guarantees that the state’s horse racing industry will unanimously approve such a deal.

While the potential annual revenue numbers being bandied about with regard to legal online poker in California have many believing that the smart move for the racetracks would be to take the $60 million and run, not everyone feels that way. Then again, we now may have horsemen who will accept nothing less than “the first sixty million dollars ($60,000,000) collected each fiscal year,” as stated in the proposal.

That amount will likely be objected to by a number of tribes who take offense to such a large piece of the pie sliced in favor of the racetracks. Don’t be too surprised if both horsemen and tribes are divided on the subsidy issue within their respective camps.

A perusal of comments posted by players at 2 + 2 finds many opposed to AB 2863 as it’s currently worded. Some of the complaints include language in the bill that makes it a felony to play at unregulated sites once the legislation is passed. The problem being that California’s online poker regime won’t launch until 21 months after enactment, leaving Golden State online poker players with no place to play for almost two years, lest they risk being branded a felon.

Also, AB 2863 allows for only intrastate poker, which rankles the chains of those who crave huge pools of players from numerous states. And it appears that foreigners visiting California will be excluded from playing, as a social security number is required to register.

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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.

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