Time Running Out on California iPoker

The sands are running out for a bill that would legalize iPoker in California. Various interest groups can’t agree on details of the bill, and seem unlikely to compromise before the September 11 deadline to pass a bill in the legislature. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (l.) said he may hold hearings in August.

Time is running out for the California legislature to pass an iPoker bill this year that is acceptable to enough stakeholders.

The gaming tribes are split on important issues. Some alliances include card clubs while others are opposed to tribes losing any part of their gambling monopoly. Some consortiums support allowing the racetrack industry to participate, while others are adamantly opposed to giving them a place at the table. One group opposes the participation of “bad actors,” by which it means PokerStars, which ran afoul of the U.S. Justice Department several years ago for serving American citizens offshore when that activity is considered illegal.

This year three iPoker bills were filed, but one is no longer active and another is a “shell bill,” that requires being filled out with details to make it viable.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer introduced AB 167. His bill, the Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015 would create a legal and regulatory framework and a revenue stream to the state from $10 million license fees and a 8.5 percent tax on poker games.

Mike Gatto withdrew his bill this month after failing to secure a consensus.

“I believe this is the right thing to do at this point because there is no consensus on the issue,” he said.

This prompted Jones-Sawyer to cancel a hearing that would have been held in July. However, Jones-Sawyer has reportedly said he was willing to reschedule hearings on the bill by the Government Organization Committee in August, shortly after the Assembly returns from its summer recess. So far Jones-Sawyer’s website does not show this to be the case. That would leave 20 sessions before the legislature adjourns for the year. September 11 is the deadline for any bill’s passage.

Many industry experts project that the state could generate $500 million in revenue annually if iPoker is legalized.

Currently PokerStars in conjunction with Californians for Responsible iPoker is touring the state with celebrity poker players such as Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker and Vanessa Selbst to drum up support for legislation that provides a safer environment for consumers. The campaign is called “Let California Play” and includes stops at several Golden State casinos.