California Online Poker Bill Flatlines for 2016, Despite Revival Efforts

August 24th, 2016 | by Jason Reynolds

California online poker is now on life support until 2017, at least. The latest measure that could have legalized the game in the Golden State is still in a coma and unlikely to come out of it before the end of this year.

Pechanga Coalition Adam Gray Online Poker Bill Dead

California online poker is likely down for the count for 2016, as he Pechanga Coalition refuses to budge on the PokerStars question. (Image: www.pe.com)

The failure of California’s AB 2863 to hit the Assembly floor for a vote on Monday appears to have signaled the death of the push for regulation in 2016. It was hoped that Assemblyman Adam Gray’s bill would finally go to a full Assembly vote on August 22.

It didn’t. But even if it had (and received the two-thirds majority it needed to pass), it would have been an underdog to make it through the Senate. That would require more hearings, plus another vote, and with just one week to go until the end of the legislative session, it’s probably time to accept that AB 2863 is toast.

But even without these apparently impossible time constraints, there would be absolutely no guarantee that the bill would have gained the necessary majority in either chamber. As a fiscal bill, it needs  that two-thirds majority, but it was always unlikely that lawmakers would opt to back a bill that remained deeply contentious right up until the plug was pulled.

Polarized Positions

While the regulation process made progress this year, particularly in gaining the support of the state’s powerful horse racing industry, tribal operators have remained deeply divided on the question of suitability. And the two groups with vested interests in a future regulated market have been bickering about this for years.

It’s complicated, and we have covered the finer legal points in previous reports, but it boils down to this salient fact: the group that has become known as the “Morongo Coalition” wants PokerStars to be included in the market because it has a commercial deal with the gaming operator. The opposing group, loosely known as the “Pechanga Coalition,” doesn’t, because it doesn’t.

And never the twain shall meet.

Bans, Freezeouts, and Bad Actors

Despite Gray’s determination to lead negotiations between the warring factions, their interests have once again proved to be too polarized for the legislation to proceed.

The final “compromise” proposed was that PokerStars, as a so-called “bad actor,” should be frozen out of the market for a decade, a period then amended last week to a mere five years. After this amount of time had elapsed, it would be permitted to participate for a buy-in of $60 million, according to 2863.

A tweet from the Poker Players Alliance just hours before we went to press, however, reveals that the bill, as written, now proposes an indefinite ban on PokerStars, suggesting that negotiations have actually regressed in the past few days.

Meanwhile, the sad truth for poker players is that regulation lies dead in the water for another year.

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