Poker News Wrap: Mike Gatto Cancels Hearing On California Online Poker Bill

July 3rd, 2015 | by Brian Corlisse
Mike Gatto California online poker

Mike Gatto said that the time isn’t right to push forward with his version of a California internet poker bill. (Image: Cheryl A. Guerrero/Glendale News-Press)

Online poker might still be coming to California, but one legislator is pushing his bill to the back burner for now.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) has cancelled the first hearing on his bill, saying that the lack of consensus from stakeholders would make it difficult to make progress at the hearing.

Gatto’s bill would put regulations in place to regulate online poker in California.

However, there have been some rather obvious divisions among various factions in the state, including Indian tribes, card rooms, and the horse racing industry.

Lack of Consensus Due to Questions of Market Access

Two issues in particular have stopped a true consensus from building, and both have to do with who gets to operate the online poker sites.

Some tribal groups want a bad actor clause that would keep PokerStars and some other operators from entering the market; others want to keep horse tracks in the state from opening sites.

Gatto says that while he has worked hard to build a coalition to pass the bill, it’s clear that one doesn’t exist at this time.

“Over the past three years, I have met with representatives from nearly every software provider, card room, gaming tribe, race track, and internet poker operator who has an opinion on the subject,” said Gatto. “I gave my word to both supporters and opponents of AB 9 that my goal was consensus, and that I would not move forward with anything that achieved less than that. I will continue working to craft legislation on which the interested parties can agree, and which is good for the people and treasury of the state of California.”

Cancelling the hearing doesn’t necessarily mean that the bill is dead forever. The bill has an urgency clause that allows the process of moving it forward to pick up again at any time.

Gatto’s bill was one of several in the California legislature. It included a bad actor clause as well as a requirement that players register in person at a casino in order to play online poker, a measure that was met with skepticism by many online poker players.

No Appeal Planned in Phua Case

Malaysian businessman and high stakes poker player Paul Phua can now officially celebrate a legal victory in his illegal sports betting case, as federal prosecutors have decided not to appeal US District Court Andrew Gordon’s decision to dismiss the case.

Phua was accused of operating a World Cup betting ring out of a villa at Caesars Palace last summer, but the case against him fell apart after tactics used by FBI agents to collect evidence against Phua were deemed unconstitutional.

“We disagree with Judge Gordon’s decision for the reasons stated in our court filings,” Nevada US Attorney Daniel Bogden said in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “However, the government will not be appealing his decision to the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.”

Phua was one of eight defendants charged in the case, and received support from poker pros like Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan and Andrew Robl.

One other defendant also had his case dismissed, while the other six pleaded guilty to lesser charges, receiving fines and probation on the condition that they stay out of the United States for five years.

“On behalf of Mr. Phua, Tom Goldstein and my office, we are pleased that the wisdom of Judge Gordon’s decision is not being challenged,” said defense attorney David Chesnoff.

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