California GO Committee to Discuss Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s AB 167 in August

ClockWith time for legalizing online poker running out, Assemblyman Mike Gatto threw in the towel and removed his iPoker bill from the agenda at last month’s California Assembly Governmental Organization Committee. Reginald Jones-Sawyer, author of his own poker bill, AB 167, decided to withdraw his legislation from the same hearing as well. After that decision, it seemed that the opportunity to pass an iPoker bill this year had all but disappeared. However, according to eGR North America, the lawmaker has rescheduled the discussion of his bill for a hearing with the same committee next month.

An olive branch to horseracing?

The problem is, the state’s gambling stakeholders are at an impasse and refuse to budge on the contentious issue of bad actors (i.e. PokerStars) and the horse tracks. Recently, online poker supporters were buoyed when Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro offered a compromise to the tracks. He suggested that racing could be allowed to strike revenue-sharing agreements and become affiliates of iPoker operators, receiving a commission for players they refer.

But the idea was quickly struck down by the tracks, who want nothing short of the ability to operate their own online poker sites. “Why should we have to compromise when we have a legal opinion that we’re legally entitled to participate as a licensee?” said horseracing lobbyist Robyn Black. “If we had no right to this new form of gaming in Internet poker, do you think five tribes would be OK with our participation? You can’t keep horse racing out. You can’t make us compromise on something for which we shouldn’t have to compromise. The only reason they are trying to offer a compromise in our opinion is that they know we are legally entitled.”

Time running out

While Jones-Sawyer’s bill will be discussed next month, it’s hard to imagine that a bill, especially one as controversial as this one, could be passed before the legislative session ends on September 11. However, more progress could be made and more compromises offered, something which could be built upon next year.

There are several iPoker bills floating around in the Golden State legislature. AB 431, introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray, has progressed farther than any other iPoker bill in the state’s history. The legislation successfully passed through the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee and Appropriations Committee, the first of such bills to do so. The problem, however, is that the bill is nothing more than a shell, meant to be filled in with language agreeable to all party’s at a later date.

But with stakeholders hopelessly deadlocked, it’s not likely that we will see any more movement on California online poker in 2015.