A new online poker bill introduced to the California legislature yesterday could be the state’s best chance thus far of legalizing and regulating online poker.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Isadore Hall and Assemblyman Adam Gray, who chair the Governmental Organization committees of their respective chambers, the policy committees, in fact, that oversee gaming in California.
That means that they are, according to a statement from the two politicians, “best positioned to lead a productive dialogue on an iPoker regulatory framework.”
The bill will run concurrently in the Senate (SB 278) and the Assembly (AB 431) and would “specifically authorize the operation of an iPoker website within California’s borders and would require the California Gambling Control Commission in consultation with the California Department of Justice to prepare regulations for the operation of an iPoker website,” according to a statement.
It will join existing draft bills, introduced respectively by Assemblyman Mike Gatto and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer earlier this year.
“This will not be a rushed process,” cautioned Hall and Gray. “Any iPoker proposal must put California taxpayers first and must ensure a safe and responsible entertainment option for adults. If done correctly, this legislation could serve as a national model for other states to follow. We think we can do it and we’re all in to move California iPoker forward this legislative session.
“By working together, their legislation seeks to build consensus on a public policy matter that has eluded California for years,” they added.
The bill itself is short on detail, a three-page draft that appears to have been rushed through to meet the February 27 deadline. It makes no mention of the issues that have divided California’s online poker stakeholders for so long, such as bad actors and the inclusion or exclusion of PokerStars.
Neither does it say whether the racetracks will be included, nor whether there will be scope for interstate pool sharing. However, now it’s here it will it will no doubt act as a foundation for debate, as its authors seek to find language on which the stakeholders can agree.
“The issue of iPoker in California has historically been divisive; dealing legislators, the governor and the public a folding hand,” said Hall and Gray. “Our bills do not create winners and losers.
Our bills do not take one entity’s side over another. Our bills will give the Legislature, the Governor, tribal governments, other gaming entities, technology providers and the public an opportunity to have an open, honest and thorough debate on this issue.”
The sponsorship of Hall and Gray carries with it serious political weight, and while this bill requires a lot of work and faces many challenges, it’s undeniable that the push to legalize online poker in California 2015 is beginning to gather some serious momentum.