The California online poker bill that historically passed through the state’s Assembly Governmental Organization Committee last week is merely a shell bill, one that will need to be filled in with many more details before it will resemble an actual law.
Yet that bill was still changed during the committee process, supposedly in an effort to ease its passage through that committee and allow it to move forward.
California Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) posted the latest version of AB 431, the bill he hopes will someday regulate online poker in the state.
The amended version of the bill still only offers a broad outline of online poker, but is riddled with small differences when compared to the initial text of the legislation.
None of the changes that were made immediately jump out as being significant, and since the bill will need to be filled in with details before it could become law anyway, the exact language may not be all that important at the moment.
However, it’s still worth taking a look at the amendments that were made in order to see how these changes may have helped the bill move past the committee stage.
In the first article of the bill (“General Provisions”), the original version of the bill simply said that Internet poker sites could be operated in accordance with any applicate laws “including, but not limited to, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.”
This section has been changed slightly to say that it is the “intent of the Legislature that any Internet poker framework that may be adopted by the Legislature to authorize Internet poker in the state” is developed in accordance with those laws.
A second section was then added to that section, one that requires any online poker framework to include consumer protections, provide revenue for the state, and “protect the public interest.” It also says that an online poker framework must “provide mechanisms to address the negative impacts of Internet poker.”
Finally, a third section was added to the first article, requiring “strict standards” that ensure that the online poker sites are operated by “qualified entities.” This section also ensures that games are fair and that technology is used to confirm that players are legally authorized to play.
Despite these additions, the latest version of the bill is even less specific about how online poker would be regulated in California than the original.
Article 2, which made reference to the California Gambling Control Commission and the Department of Justice was eliminated entirely; the same was done to Article 3, which said that those agencies were responsible for creating the regulations for Internet poker in the state.
While it is hard to say why all of these changes were made, at least some of them were likely done to appease Native American groups who would like to see a “bad actor” clause included in any Internet poker bill in the state.
One group of tribes, including the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, was initially opposed to AB 431, but dropped their opposition (while also not outright supporting the bill) after the amendments were made.
Bad actor clauses, which would likely be used to keep PokerStars out of the California market, are one of two major issues that have divided the California gaming industry when it comes to online poker.
The other is the inclusion of the horse racing industry, which would like to operate online poker sites alongside tribes and card rooms.