California Online Poker Bill Passes Committee Vote, But It’s Only a Small Victory

April 28th, 2016 | by Brian Corlisse
California online poker bill.

California online poker bill AB 2863 passed a committee vote 18-0 but still faces an uphill battle. (Image: blogs.sacbee.com)

A California online poker bill, AB 2863, passed the state Assembly Governmental Organization Committee with a unanimous 18-0 vote. That’s the good news. The bad news is Assemblyman Adam Gray still has a lot of work to do if he expects his bill to pass.

But this is a step forward and, at the very least, a moral victory for those fighting hard to legalize online poker in the largest state. Among those working diligently to bring online poker to the Golden State is the Poker Players Alliance.

PPA spokesman John Pappas testified in front of the committee. He demonstrated the benefits of legalizing online poker by Googling “can I play online poker in California”. The purpose was to show committee members there are still many unlicensed options available to California residents.

Legalizing poker on the web would eliminate a resident’s need to use overseas poker sites and start playing on regulated sites which would generate tax revenues for the state.

What’s the Hold Up?

Amaya Gaming, parent company of PokerStars, has partnered with many tribal casinos in California to fight for online poker. Multiple tribal advocates spoke before the committee on Wednesday.

But not everyone is on board. The Pechanga coalition refuses to back the bill but also won’t openly oppose it. Instead, Pechanga chairman Marc Macarro criticized Amaya CEO David Baazov for his alleged insider trading scandal. He also spoke out against Baazov being able to use the PokerStars brand in California.

The biggest problem in getting this bill to pass, at this moment, is the suitability issue. According to some, those convicted of a felony shouldn’t be allowed to receive a license to operate an online gambling site in California. To others, that isn’t much of an issue. And that’s where Baazov’s insider trading incident is causing a problem.

Sheldon Adelson didn’t show up for the hearing but he did send one of his cronies from the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling to make sure everyone knows just how bad online gambling is for society. His voice wasn’t taken too seriously as the bill received a unanimous vote.

The racing and gaming industry in California desperately wants this bill to pass. Why? Because the industry stands to benefit financially from subsidies.

What’s Up Next?

Assemblyman Gray stated he will hold bi-weekly meetings with stakeholders to clear up any suitability issues. He will need all tribal casinos to support his bill for it to have a chance to pass. At this time, he doesn’t have full support.

Assemblyman Jim Cooper questioned whether or not Gray could bring together the divided tribes. Regardless, AB 2863 now moves to the Assembly floor. If it receives a favorable vote, it will be off to the Senate for a vote.

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