Adam Gray California Online Poker Bill Makeover Should Appeal to Legislators and Tribes

Posted on May 8th, 2015 by Daniel Ryder
California online poker bill Adam Gray AB 431

State Assemblyman Adam Gray’s California online poker bill is being amended to satisfy the wishes of some Native American tribal leaders, signaling to some that PokerStars may not be permitted to operate in the state. But the opera definitely ain’t over yet. (Image: onlinepokercalifornia.org)

California State Assemblyman Adam Gray understands that small changes can lead to big changes. That’s why the legislator made minor wording adjustments to an online poker bill that seems to have magically created consensus.

AB 431, the California online poker bill that unanimously passed through the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee (GO) in late April, is being amended by Gray (D-Merced), the lead author of the bill and chairman of the committee.

Although all 21 persons on the committee voted in favor of passing AB 431, members pointed out that it is simply a “shell bill” that needs amending and additional language regarding specifics on iPoker regulation to have any chance of gaining traction in the State Assembly and Senate.

“We’ve got to get all the parties in the room,” Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-59th District) said after the bill’s passing GO. “We’ve got to get all the parties in the room and have the kind of dialogue that gets us to a yes.”

Clean Bill of Poker

This week, GO altered the language and expanded on regulation to hopefully satisfy not only their legislative constituents, but perhaps more importantly, the Native American tribal organizations.

When AB 431 was first approved, Mark Macarro, chairman for the powerful Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, had said he opposed the measure.

“We look forward to a meaningful process and arriving at comprehensive legislation that respects California’s longstanding public policy,” Macarro said in a statement.

While the changes to the proposal might seem minor, they are significant legal modifications that could have great impact on how online poker operates should the bill be signed into law.

The most glaring amendment is in the opening remarks. The previous version read, “This bill would authorize the operation of an Internet poker Web site within the borders of the state.”

That rather general speak has now been changed to read: “This bill would declare the Legislature’s intent regarding the authorization of Internet poker within the borders of the state. The bill would require the Legislature, among other things, to include consumer protections for Californians in any Internet poker framework… to ensure that framework provides a fair share of revenue for the state, and to include strict standards in that framework to ensure that the Internet poker games are fair.”

Chief Lawmakers

Although tribal leaders aren’t state elected officials and only have legal authority on their respective lands, they do possess great influence on California lawmakers who heavily rely on their support come election time.

The leading concern amongst tribal groups and passage of online poker is preventing the so-called “bad actors” from entering the market, primarily PokerStars. The second issue is that tribes want to limit horse tracks from being permitted to operate online card rooms, as that would reduce their monopoly on the state casino industry.

Following the changes to AB 431, the bill has received the support of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Bicycle Casino, and even Macarro’s Pechanga.

The outpouring of support likely stems from one other amendment that insists online poker must be “operated by qualified entities,” a line that seems to hint PokerStars and other Black Friday offenders won’t be welcomed to the Golden State.

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