California Poker Bill Expected To Miss August 31 Deadline

August 28, 2016

The struggle to pass legislation regarding legal online poker in California continues with no end in sight. There are rumors floating around of concessions regarding the disagreements over suitability standards, but it doesn’t look like they will be enough to achieve a working version of the bill before the current California legislative session ends.

The Final Deadline For Passage Is Rapidly Approaching

Just last week, Assemblyman Adam Gray’s bill to regulate online poker in California, AB 2683, failed to make it to the Assembly floor yet again. This bill, the “Internet Consumer Protection Act,” had until yesterday to pass through the Assembly and onto the Senate floor before the close of this legislative session. As it stands, there is a generally low level of optimism regarding the bill’s chances of actually making it through this session, though there is a chance that an amended version of the bill will get a Monday vote in the Assembly.

In spite of the bill already being considered failed legislation at this point, Assemblyman Gray is still reportedly speaking with stakeholders regarding suitability standards, which has been a sticking point in the past. The amended form of the bill is reported to contain a clause that imposes either a five-year ban or a $20 million fine for companies that are considered bad actors – including PokerStars.

AB 2683 Passage Improbable But Not Impossible

It’s important to note that Adam Gray was opposed to this amendment initially because PokerStars is under new management with the Amaya Group’s recent acquisition of the company. Because Amaya had no say in PokerStars’ actions during the time period being debated, he believed that the mandatory ban was unnecessary. The bill has been repeatedly pulled from the Assembly floor due to language conflicts, but it would seem an agreement was reached on Thursday, which was the final day for it to be presented before amendment deadlines were past.

If the bill is put to vote this Monday, it still only has until August 31st to pass through the Senate as well, otherwise it’s back to square one. While it may appear nearly impossible for the bill to get through both the Assembly as well as the Senate in less than two weeks, there are experts that believe it is possible. One of Assemblyman Gray’s staffers even told reporters that the bill is expected to be “fairly well received in the Senate.”

Amaya’s Response to AB 2683 Amendments

Obviously, Amaya would not want to see this version of the bill pass because they will face a hefty penalty and potentially lose quite a bit of market share during the five-year ban. There is a coalition of tribes and card clubs that have sided with Amaya as well, including the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino and Hawaiian Gardens Casino. This coalition is currently circulating a letter through the California Assembly expressing their opposition to the bill and urging members to vote against the amended bill.

In the letter, the coalition outlines their belief that this version of the bill “raises constitutional questions that will likely result in litigation and prevent implementation of crucial consumer protections while California forgoes hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues for schools, public safety and other priorities.”

Final Thoughts

Right now, it appears that there is a long-shot chance that the amended version of AB 2683 will make it through the Assembly and Senate before the August 31st deadline. However, it’s best to remember that California took nine years just to get this far, so while passage is not impossible, it certainly is highly improbable.