The decade-long feud between the main interest groups in California’s potential online poker industry has seen the idea of a legal ipoker put to rest for yet another year. It is almost definite that Assemblyman Adam Gray’s online poker legislation AB 2863 will be shelved this year, although the final outcome will only be known on August 31st when the state’s legislature adjourns.
AB 2863 was seen as the Golden State’s most realistic chance of advancing online poker in California, with the tribes, poker rooms, racing industry and other coalition members seemingly coming together for a while. However, the sides were unable to reach a compromise on the stickiest issue of all – that of the inclusion of a ‘bad actor’ clause. This time around, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians demanded that bad actors (read: Amaya and its online poker room, PokerStars) be excluded from the new legislation altogether. They were unwilling to consider Adam Gray’s compromise, ie. that these so-called bad actors wouldn’t be barred outright from the industry but would have to be evaluated by state gambling regulators before applying for a license to operate in California.
Buckling under pressure, and wanting to see his bill advance, Gray amended the bill which stated that ‘bad actors’ – those who accepted US players to their sites following the 2006 introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act – could not apply for a license for five years after AB 2863 was passed. This amendment proved too much for the PokerStars coalition and support for AB 2863 was therefore pulled.
A statement made by the PokerStars coalition, comprising tribes and poker rooms read: “These amendments target a single company, Amaya, with provisions that would prevent the company from ever securing a license. 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.”
Besides the ethical reasons for opposing such a clause, many of the members of the PokerStars coalition would have been left without a software provider for their potential online poker sites if legislation was past without PokerStars’ involvement.
As stated, there is still a slight chance that the online poker bill will be voted on during the current legislature, but with days passing fast and the end of the month looming, nobody is willing to place money on that happening this year.