California poker bill will likely fold again—for now

Despite making solid headway in the past several months, it appears that California’s online poker legislation is on its way back to the shelf this year.

California poker bill will likely fold again—for nowAssemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 2863 was expected to be voted on Monday in the California Assembly, but key stakeholder groups—PokerStars, its tribal allies, and advocacy group Poker Players Alliance, among others—failed to come together on a final compromise, which led to the bill being shelved again for another year.

Just like in the past, the sticking point remained to be the definition of a “bad actor,” or a person or company that would be deemed unsuitable to participate in the California’s regulated online poker market. The coalition of hardline tribes led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians wanted these so-called bad actors to be completely excluded from the state’s market for “ethical reasons.”

The “compromise” version of Gray’s bill stipulated that PokerStars—clearly the tribes’ prime target—would have to be evaluated by California’s gaming regulators when it applies for a license instead of being outright barred via legislation. But the Pechangas and Agua Calientes managed to force an amendment to AB 2863, which once again included the bad actor clause.

Under the amendment bill, PokerStars and other operators who accepted U.S. customers after the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) would be aced out from applying for a gambling license for five years.

Other tribes and some of the state’s largest cardrooms have teamed up with PokerStars to oppose the amendment, which they claimed “arbitrarily and unfairly bans [PokerStars] from competing in the iPoker market indefinitely.”

“These amendments target a single company, Amaya, with provisions that would prevent the company from ever securing a license,” a statement from the coalition said, according to eGaming Review.“It is our understanding amendments were presented to members as imposing a five year penalty box when in reality these provisions would effectively create a lifetime ban for Amaya.”

There is still a possibility that AB 2863 could be voted this year, but that’s still up in the air especially since the California legislature will adjourn on August 31.

“Another year w/o regulated Online Poker in California,” tweeted internet poker entrepreneur Alex Dreyfus. “Players want to play, state wants to be regulated, but parties are fighting. Lose, lose.”


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