Jones-Sawyer launches new effort to regulate online poker in California

Efforts to legalise online poker in California are back underway with a new bill from Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.

The long-time poker advocate has filed AB1677, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2016, which would allow federally-recognised tribal gaming operators and licensed cardrooms to launch online poker sites serving players in California.

Prospective operators can apply for seven-year licences against a deposit payment of $12.5m, and would be subject to a gross gaming revenue tax on a sliding scale. 

This would range from 8.847 per cent for operators generating annual GGR or $150m or less, climbing to 15 per cent for those generating more than $350m a year.

The bill authorises licensees to partner with iGaming operators who must secure a service provider licence, but does not include the 'bad actor' language that has contributed to the previous failed efforts to regulate online poker in California. The 'bad actor' clause was designed to block operators active in the market following the passage of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act - namely PokerStars - from participating in the market.

The bill also proposes that 95 per cent of the first $60m collected each year in deposits and taxes be deposited into the California Horse Racing Internet Poker Account, for distribution by the California Horse Racing Board.

The remaining 5 per cent will be transferred to the State Treasury for the Fair and Exposition Fund.

An Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Fund would also be established within the General Fund to ensure the California Gambling Control Commission has adequate resources to tackle illegal operators.

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