Reggie Jones-Sawyer AB 167 in California: Soft on Bad Actors, Welcoming to PokerStars

January 23rd, 2015 | by Greg Shaun
Reggie Jones-Sawyer AB 167 California online poker

California State Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer is banking on fellow lawmakers liking his new online poker bill, AB 167. But it has already been denounced by the Pechanga tribe of the anti-PokerStars coalition. (Image courtesy Reggie Jones-Sawyer)

A new California online poker bill from State Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer can now go head-to-head with one presented earlier this month by fellow Golden State Assemblyman Mike Gatto.

Bill AB 167 is Jones-Sawyer’s second throw of the dice at attempting to create a regulatory framework for legal online poker in the state, following the withdrawal of his last bill toward the end of the 2013/14 legislative session.

Jones-Sawyer’s 167 is starkly different from previous bills, and the current Gatto bill, AB9, in a number of ways.

Perhaps most significant is the lack of a non-severable “bad actor” clause, which has characterized preceding draft legislation, and which could pave the way for PokerStars to enter the market. Rather than precluding brands with checkered post-UIGEA histories, AB 167 discriminates against individuals who have broken US gambling laws, a fact that obviously favors PokerStars under its new “clean” and Canadian Amaya leadership.

“The person [who] has been convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction of a felony consisting of either having accepted a bet over the Internet in violation of United States or California law, or having aided or abetted that unlawful activity,” will be excluded from the licensing process, AB 167 states.

Tribal Coalition Fires Back

Of course, while most of California’s poker players will be pleased about this, the language of the bill has immediately upset the anti-PokerStars tribal coalition, which is likely to impede its passage in its current form.

“We are disappointed that the bill disregards important principles from a broad coalition of respected tribes and card rooms that help prevent corporations and entities that previously violated federal law from profiting from tainted software, brands, and databases derived from illegal activity,” said Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro.

Also significant is the lack of any mention of a ban on interstate and international player-liquidity sharing, a concept expressly forbidden by previous bills, and this could be enormous boon to online poker, not just in California, but also in the newly regulated and future-regulated states, across America.

Racetracks Along for the Ride

In contrast to its predecessors, AB 167 would also allow California’s racetracks to participate in the regulated market.

In its list of eligible license applicants, the Jones-Sawyer bill includes: “A California-owned and operated horse racing association that is based in California and that operates pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 19400), whose owner or owners have been authorized, subject to oversight by, and in good standing with, the applicable state regulatory authorities.”

Jones-Sawyer says he’s learned from his past mistakes, and is more confident that his latest bill’s verbiage will pass muster.

“The reintroduction of this legislation comes on the heels of a very thoughtful and collaborative discussion process that included substantial input from both the state’s Department of Justice and Gambling Control Commission. It is absolutely essential that we have a proper regulatory structure in place that provides safe and compliant internet poker access,” said the assemblyman.

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