California online poker bill AB 431 cleared its second hurdle this week as the state’s Assembly Appropriations Committee unanimously passed the measure with 14 votes in favor, zero in opposition, and three members choosing not to weigh in on the issue.
Assembly Bill 431, authored by State Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), passed the Governmental Organization Committee in late April and is now ready for a full Assembly vote, which should it succeed would then be transferred to the California Senate.
Steven Miller, director for the Poker Players Alliance in California, was quick to thank the legislative branch for its approval.
“Today marks another historic day for online poker in California,” Miller said in a press release. “A second committee has cleared a bill that marks a monumental step toward providing thousands of consumers with what they need and deserve, a safe place to play poker online.”
Earlier this week, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and eight other tribes came out in opposition of AB 431, saying that “continuing to pass this measure as a spot bill does not advance a state regulatory structure for iPoker.”
But apparently Pechanga’s reasoning didn’t resonate with Appropriations members, who decided that even though AB 431 is in shell format at just two pages in length and provides little details on the rather complex world of Internet poker, the bill should still be put up for a vote.
The committee cites in its bill analysis that “the bill declares the framework shall include strict standards to ensure the fairness and integrity of the games, appropriate consumer protections, fair revenue for the state, safeguards against underage play, and mechanisms to address negative impacts of Internet poker gambling.”
The Pechanga tribe is chiefly concerned that it would lose its commercial monopoly on state gambling should online poker become legalized. The tribal organizations won’t support legislation to allow iGaming without specific language regarding licensing and preventing new vendors into the market, a clause Gray’s bill omits.
Pechanga’s concerns are justified and understandable as its citizens depend on its casino to fuel its local economy. Its lone gas station, golf course, and RV resort certainly won’t support its 5,500 acres and some 500 residents that live on the property.
Should the tribe lose shares in gambling, a market it has so heavily invested in, the Pechanga could suffer a serious blow.
Now that the California online poker bill has passed both the Assembly Governmental Organization and Appropriations committees, the next step will be to hold a couple of hearings with testimony featuring views on both sides of the issue.
After the hearings, AB 431 will be put up for a full Assembly vote, most likely sometime this summer. If the majority votes in favor of the bill, it will then be passed to the Senate, which would then also need to approve the legislation.
But if both senators and assemblypersons in California find common ground and eventually pass AB 431, Californians could possibly be playing online poker in 2015.