California online poker bill passes committee vote

Assemblyman Adam Gray says California is “closer than it’s ever been” to regulating online poker after AB 2863 passes committee vote

Assembly Bill 2863, the latest hope for California to begin regulating online poker, moved out of the Assembly Governmental Organisation Committee on Wednesday when it won by 18 votes to zero following a two hour long hearing in Sacramento.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Adam Gray who sat chair during the hearing, has been labelled “one of the most complicated issues ever facing the legislature”.

A similar bill of Gray’s was also passed by the committee in 2015 with very little in the way of progress following the positive vote, but hopes are much higher for change this time round.

This is down to an alteration Gray and fellow Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer made to AB 2863 when it was proposed for a second time this year. That change, a $60 million annual payment to the state’s struggling horse racing industry in exchange for it not vying for online poker licenses, resulted in the tracks’ full support during the hearing this week.

The tracks’ opposition to the bill last year was described by Gray as the number one issue to be resolved, but the last hurdle confronting him now is the online gaming companies’ suitability to partner with California’s brick and mortar gambling establishments.

Many tribes who fall into the latter of those aforementioned categories specifically oppose industry leaders PokerStars and would be very reluctant to enter into any sort of agreement, especially off the back of former CEO David Baazov’s recent insider trading charges going public.

This so-called “bad actor” issue will be discussed heavily and hopefully resolved over the course of the coming weeks and months, and Gray has said suitability  language will have to be finalised before AB 2863 comes up for a possible full assembly vote.

Despite Gray’s promising quirk that this is “the closest California has ever been” to regulating online poker there’s still a distinct possibility it will never happen, and that possibility will grow a lot stronger if legislation isn’t passed in the next couple of years.

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