Online Poker Bill AB 167 to Be Discussed in Upcoming Go Committee Hearing

An online poker bill introduced last year is back on the table for 2016, and will be discussed in an upcoming Governmental Oversight (GO) committee hearing, along with other gambling proposals.

Online Poker Bill Back to Life

The bill, AB 167, was introduced by Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer in January of last year, but failed to gain traction. Instead, it looked as if GO Chairman Adam Gray’s AB 431 – a bill which would also legalize online poker in the state – would be the vehicle for regulating the industry. But while the legislation was successfully voted out of committee in April, it too lost momentum and remained a shell bill.

Interestingly, Jones-Sawyer’s proposal is now back on the table, signaling that there has been some progress on the issue behind closed doors. Last year, hopes were high that an iPoker bill would be signed by the governor, but the state’s gambling interests, which include card rooms, tribal casinos, racetracks and online poker sites, could not come to a consensus on the terms of such legislation.

The two major sticking points impeding progress have been whether to allow horseracing tracks or “bad actors” (i.e. PokerStars) to operate their own online poker rooms in the state. AB 167 does not contain a firm bad actor clause, and would allow the tracks to run their own sites. A powerful coalition of tribes has fought hard to preclude PokerStars from entering the market, however, and is adamant against allowing the tracks to participate.

Regulating Daily Fantasy Sports

Also up for discussion is the Internet Fantasy Sports Game Protection Act, or AB 1437, introduced by Assemblymember Gray. That bill seeks to regulate the daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry and allow the government to license and tax DFS operators. The legislation was introduced before several scandals threw the legality of the industry in question, prompting authorities in New York and Illinois to deem it illegal in their states.

Gray’s DFS bill is likely to receive pushback from tribes who oppose any sort of gambling expansion outside of their control. Meanwhile, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris has been asked to give her opinion on the legality of daily fantasy operators, but hasn’t released a statement on the matter so far.

Sports Betting on the Table

A sports betting bill is also on the docket for the upcoming GO hearing. While AB 1441 would legalize sports betting in the Golden State, it would need the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) to be changed before the law could be implemented. That legislation, which limits sports betting to just four states in the US, is being challenged by New Jersey as well, which hopes to legalize sports betting for its own residents.

The original GO committee hearing was scheduled for this Wednesday, but a recent tweet by the Poker Players Alliance said that the meeting would not happen this week. They said that the move was not a setback, however, but simply a matter of “scheduling and moving parts.”