Mike Gatto speakingMike Gatto Urges California To Go ‘All In’ With Online Poker

In a bid to promote his new poker bill, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto has written an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune urging Golden State residents to “go all in with online poker.”

“Millions of Californians… regularly play poker, and like everything else, poker gameplay is migrating online,” he writes. “California is an innovator in all things computer-related, with one major exception: online poker.”

Gatto hopes to change that with AB 9, a bill which would allow tribal casinos and cardrooms to offer approved poker-only games on the Internet. The legislation is nearly identical to a bill filed last year which was backed by a coalition of tribes, but contains stricter “bad actor” language likely targeted at Amaya Gaming/PokerStars.

Whereas the previous bill would block companies which offered online gambling after the UIGEA was passed in 2006, AB 9 prohibits operators who bought assets of tainted companies as well.

Bill focuses on security

Gatto hopes to minimize incidents of fraud by requiring players to sign up their accounts and make their initial deposit inside a land-based tribal casino, or satellite. “Just like opening a bank account, the only way to open an online poker account in California would be to present yourself in person at a “branch” and be “validated” by showing two forms of identification.”

Is there a problem here?

Organizations like the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) believe that the assemblyman is going out of his way to fix nonexistent problems; Online gambling has been running smoothly in three US states, and regulators have encountered few issues. PPA Executive Director John Pappas has remarked that requiring poker players to leave their house to open their account defeats the purpose of offering poker on the Internet in the first place.

Gatto believes that the stipulation would have the added benefit of giving small land-based casinos a boost in foot traffic. “It would allow local brick-and-mortar establishments, most of which are too small to operate an online poker site, to nevertheless profit from online poker, and would guarantee them some foot traffic,” he said.

Highlighting the Golden State’s accomplishments in the Silicon Valley software industry, Gatto says that there is “no good reason why we can’t continue to lead with a sensible online poker framework.”

In recent interviews, the assemblyman has stated that AB 9 is only a first draft, and that he is looking forward to meeting with the state’s gambling industry players in order to hammer out a piece of legislation which all sides can back. PokerStars will likely have some suggestions, one of which would be to remove the bad actor clause which was seemingly written specifically to block them from opening up shop in the state.

Gatto believes that AB 9 “elegantly” addresses concerns which have scuttled previous poker bills and touts the potential profits the state could reap. “California has long been a state of paradoxes, but this opportunity can improve our government finances,” he said. “We shouldn’t pass it up.”