Mike Gatto Announces First Round Of Amendments To AB 9

Mike Gatto siteAfter speaking with a variety of California’s online gambling interests, Mike Gatto has announced the first set of changes to his online poker legislation, AB 9.

“My goal remains creating a sensible framework for a new California industry,” said Gatto in a statement.  “That will involve a thoughtful process of consultation with all of the key stakeholders.  I pride myself in listening; I expect this process will continue throughout the year.”

No more in person sign-up

The amendment will mostly affect the bill’s sign-up process for new players, which previously required users to create their account and make initial deposits in person. Now, Gatto has decided to strike this requirement from the legislation.

“After meeting with security experts and hearing from poker players and industry professionals, I have concluded that online poker would be best served by making in-person registration an option rather than a requirement,” he said.  “State of the art technology currently used by operators in other states when registering players accesses many of the same databases used by financial institutions to verify the identity of registrants and prevent fraud.”

The goal of the original sign-up process was to appease small casino owners who feel threatened by the online poker industry. Gatto surmised that requiring players to make their initial deposit in person would increase foot traffic to those casinos.

Instead, the assemblyman is considering requiring sites to host an annual live tournament which could result in more players making the trip out to local casinos.

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) had initially criticized AB 9 for its onerous sign-up requirements. The group argued that forcing users to leave their house and drive to a casino defeated the whole purpose of offering online poker in the first place.

Stricter penalties for unsanctioned sites

Gatto also plans to tighten the screws on unregulated online gambling sites by “making it a felony for those who illegally offer real-money games to players in California, and offering additional resources to the Attorney General to enforce the new regime.” It is unclear, however, how the state of California could punish offshore sites operating in the Golden State illegally.

The statement doesn’t signal any changes to the bill’s bad actor language which would likely block PokerStars from operating in the state. In the original text of AB 9, the legislation promised to prohibit sites which operated in California after the UIGEA was passed  (i.e. PokerStars).

“California has led the world in computer and Internet innovation, including online security and screening, and there is no reason why we can’t lead with a sensible online-poker framework,” Gatto added.  “These amendments are derived from time-tested business practices that have received significant support from stakeholders.  Lawmakers should listen to feedback from experts as they seek to form sound public policy.”

The amendments will appear in the bill after it is referred to its first committee for a hearing.