Reggie Jones Sawyer Introduces Online Poker Bill AB 167

California capital buildingCalifornia Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-59th District) has introduced his much-anticipated online poker bill dubbed the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015, or AB 167. Unlike Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s bill, AB 9, the Jones-Sawyer legislation takes a softer stance on so-called bad actors, while also allowing the horseracing industry to operate its own online card rooms.

In a statement, the assemblyman said that the bill’s release was delayed due to a prolonged collaborative process with stakeholders, along with the Department of Justice and Gambling Control Commission.

Horseracing tracks included

AB 167 is an Internet poker-only bill, it would allow individuals inside the state of California over the age of 21 to play at state sanctioned Internet poker sites. Horseracing tracks, tribal casinos and licensed brick-and-mortar cardrooms would all be eligible to create their own Internet poker rooms.

Operators would pay a one-time $10 million licensing fee, credited against quarterly fees equivalent to 8.5% of their gross gaming revenue.

In the bill, Jones-Sawyer discusses the need for state sanctioned online poker sites. “Californians participate in illegal online gambling on unregulated Internet websites every week,” he said. “Any negative social or financial aspects are borne by the citizens of California, and the revenues generated from online gambling are being realized by offshore operators and do not provide any benefit to the citizens of California.”

AB 167 would disqualify tribes which offer real money poker to players inside the state who are not physically on tribal lands. The addition is a clear shot at the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, whose real money bingo site, Desert Rose Bingo, has been temporarily shut down for allegedly breaking a variety of federal and state laws.

Lack of bad actor language paves way for PokerStars

In December, Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced AB 9, a poker bill which includes bad actor language, but could technically give PokerStars a path to becoming regulated. AB 167, however, includes no such wording and has been lauded by the Amaya Gaming-owned company.

“We applaud Assembly Member Jones-Sawyer for his thoughtful approach to iPoker legislation in California which takes into account many years of input from stakeholders on all sides, including the California Department of Justice,” said PokerStars in a statement.

The online gambling giant has partnered with the Golden State’s top three card rooms and aligned itself with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

Playing on illegal sites a felony

The Jones-Sawyer bill would make it a felony to play on unregulated online gambling sites, a charge that could lead to jail time.