California Online Poker Advocates Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Adam Gray Partner for Latest Legislation

Posted on February 22nd, 2016 by Jon Pineda
California online poker Adam Gray

California online poker is back in the state capital after Assemblyman Adam Gray, seen here in the middle, introduced a new bill to the legislature that is trying to alleviate various concerns among tribal groups, the horse racing industry, and commercial card rooms. (Image: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)
California online poker is back in the state capital after Assemblyman Adam Gray, seen here in the middle, introduced a new bill to the legislature that is trying to alleviate various concerns among tribal groups, the horse racing industry, and commercial card rooms. (Image: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

California online poker has been brought back from the dead thanks to a new piece of legislation introduced late last Friday by Assemblymen Adam Gray (D-District 21) and Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-District 59). Assembly Bill 2863, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2016, would modify the state’s existing Gambling Control Act to authorize intrastate online poker games and establish a regulatory framework to prevent residents from playing on rogue networks.

Lawmakers in California have been trying to legalize the card game online for some six years as the market is poised to generate an estimated $380 million in annual revenues. While numerous bills have come and gone, Gray and Jones-Sawyer’s latest attempt seems to finally have all its cards properly positioned to finally win the iPoker pot.

Gray chairs the California State Assembly’s Committee on Governmental Organization, which governs on a variety of issues including gambling.

California Catch-22

Gambling laws are complicated in America’s most populated state. Native Americans continue to maintain their monopoly on the casino industry, but commercial card rooms for player-banked games like poker are available outside of tribal reservations.

Pair those distinctions with horse racing and politics, and together you have one vast conundrum of complexity featuring multiple groups unwilling to budge.

Several tribal leaders believe they are the only ones who should be able to offer iPoker, while card rooms want a take and racetracks believe they deserve a piece as well.

AB 2863: What’s New?

California is the state where so many migrate to fulfill their dreams, and Gray and Jones-Sawyer are the perfect representatives for those hoping iPoker will one day come to fruition. AB 2863 is the most communal online poker legislation to date, and seemingly appeases many of the previous concerns among the vested parties.

Stipulation #1: The legislation’s paramount development is that horse racetracks will receive up to $60 million in revenue sharing annually in exchange for the tracks agreeing to step aside from the market. The first $60 million collected from licensing fees and player revenues will be deposited into the California Horse Racing Internet Poker fund.

Problem Solved: Horse Racing Industry

Stipulation #2: AB 2863 will allow commercial gaming operators to offer online poker in conjunction with brick-and-mortar card rooms, but also allow any federally recognized California Indian tribe to launch Internet card rooms.

Problem Solved: Opening the market for both land-based card rooms and tribal casinos is a compromise that has the potential to satisfy both sides.

Stipulation #3: Should the bill become law, Californians playing on unregulated iPoker networks will be subject to a felony charge, and platforms catering to residents while unlicensed would face similar criminal indictments.

Problem Solved: Lawmakers in California who worry that regulating online poker won’t prevent the continued operation of rogue networks. 

Californians are estimated to account for more than 15 percent of the illegal online poker market in the United States. Though Gray and Jones-Sawyer’s bill doesn’t specify how much each seven-year license would cost or at what rate gross gaming revenues would be taxed, it’s safe to say the state stands to collect millions in additional revenue while at the same time helping to aid its struggling horse racing industry.

Perhaps 2016 will finally be the year when California’s six-year iPoker itch finally gets scratched.

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