California Legislature Begins iPoker Hearings

After years of stalling, the California legislature is holding hearings on iPoker. Problem is, the interested parties can’t agree on a bill and lawmakers really couldn’t care less if one is passed.

The California Assembly’s Governmental Organization Committee has begun hearings on AB 431, a “shell bill” that would legalize online poker in the Golden State. Four hearings are planned.

“Shell bill,” means that the assembly bill mirrors an identical bill in the Senate. The two sponsors are Assemblyman Adam Grey and Senator Isadore Hall III. Both chair their respective governmental organization committees.

The first of the hearings will occur April 22. Some of the hearings will be joint hearings for the Senate and Assembly committees. Some hearings will focus on online gambling, and not iPoker exclusively.

This will be the first time that the two committees have sat together to look at online poker as well as the first time that a “shell bill” has been introduced on the issue.

The “shell” bills serve to open an official discussion and provide opportunities for the various interest groups to show whether they can forge a large enough coalition to push through a bill that satisfies most, if not all, of the stakeholders.

Lawmakers involved in the process say they are weary and that their optimism is flagging. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who was the first to introduce such a bill this year, now says that he thinks that such a bill has a 35 percent chance of passage, mess less than in February, when he said 5/50.

The proponents of such a bill, who include gaming tribes, card clubs and racetracks, cannot agree on key provisions. At the same time the issue isn’t a priority for most members of the legislature or to the public in general. So the legislator aren’t under pressure to come up with a compromise.

Gatto said recently that of 60,000 emails that he has received, only a handful were about iPoker.

This has apparently prompted California Online Poker to urge a grassroots effort to hit lawmakers over the head to get their attention. California Online Poker has promised to send the politicians lists of constituents who favor passage of a bill.