California Assemblyman Mike Gatto Still Fighting As He Amends Online Poker Bill

January 17th, 2015 | by Greg Shaun
Assemblyman Gatto Amends Poker Bill

Assemblyman Mike Gatto has quickly proposed an amendment to his California online poker bill, removing a potentially tedious and unnecessary restriction. (Image: LATimes.com)

California State Representative Mike Gatto has amended his state’s online poker bill to remove a highly criticized clause where players were expected to register in person at land-based casinos.

Bill AB 9, also known as The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015, was introduced by Gatto at the commencement of California’s new legislative session in early December, though it has yet been assigned to a committee.

The major difference between AB 9 and other bills is the inclusion of a clause requiring new players to create an online poker account by visiting a land-based casino or cardroom associated with the poker site.

Best Intentions

Gatto, who chairs the newly formed Assembly Consumer Protection and Privacy Committee, introduced the in-person requirement in hopes that it would help prevent underage gambling and fraud, plus assist in generating foot traffic for land-based casinos.

He felt that smaller casinos who might be left in the dark could instead be partnered with bigger names, serving as registration satellite centers.

Despite his good intentions, the restriction proposed by Gatto has been heavily criticized by several throughout the poker industry.

They argue that current age verification software and online identification technology used in other regulated markets in the US already address Gatto’s concerns.

John Pappas, president of the Poker Players Alliance, suggested that an average consumer wouldn’t go through the effort of visiting a land-based establishment to play online. “If he’s doing it because he thinks it’s a way to get people into the casino, that’s one thing,” Pappas said of Gatto’s proposal. “If he’s doing it because he thinks it’s a way to stop minors from playing or people from fraudulently withdrawing money, he needs to be informed that safeguards already are in place online that not only the Internet poker industry is using but all sorts of e-commerce.”

Swift Change

While the in-person restriction in AB 9 has received criticism, Gatto has listened to criticism from those in the industry and enacted change in a timely manner. Rather than a cut-and-dry proposal, AB 9 is meant to be a jumping-off point for online poker in California and will be amended to include language that will satisfy as many as possible.

“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 in a press release. “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.”

Where Pappas feels that the in-person restriction would harm industry growth, Gatto is still open to the idea. For that reason, in-person registration still exists as an option for players in AB 9.

Gatto believes it is still a way to generate foot traffic as well as give players more flexibility in making transactions.

Addressing Bad Actors

Even with his openness in amending parts of AB 9, it looks as if one aspect of the bill is staying the same. When it was proposed in December, AB 9 contained a bad actor clause meant to keep names like PokerStars out of the California market.

Gatto had scheduled meetings with Amaya Gaming to discuss the company’s ideas for a potential California poker bill.

Based on the news of the proposed amendments, it looks as if the bad actor clause still remains. The bad actor clause in the bill was altered to address Amaya’s purchase of PokerStars, still limiting it from being able to obtain a license.

However, there still may be a chance for Amaya if it can present evidence that its assets won’t affect the integrity of intrastate online poker or pose a threat to public interest.

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