Sen. Dianne Feinstein Wants to Put the Brakes on AB 2863

With the promise of a $60 million subsidy, online poker bill AB 2863 has gained the horseracing industry’s support and pledge to exclude themselves from operating their own iPoker sites.

Late last month, more progress was made on the bill, when its sponsors, Adam Gray and Reginald Jones-Sawyer, discussed the legislation in front of the California Assembly Governmental Organization Committee. The two hour meeting resulted in the committee passing the online poker only bill by a vote of 18-0.

But not all are happy about iGaming coming to town. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), has taken aim at the bill, and written a letter to state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon asking them to reject legislation.

The same tired talking points

Feinstein’s objections, however, are criticisms we have heard from online gambling opponents before. Her two main worries are that children might be able to access such sites, and that criminal groups could use the platform as a way to launder money.

She cites a study by Biomed Central Public Health which found that there was “an increase of online gambling opportunities for youth in Canada, indicating a possible impact on the health of adolescents there.” It’s unclear why she believes that children in California would be similarly affected, or how they would access such regulated sites to begin with.

She also brought up a letter circulated by Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, which was signed by the FBI and vastly overstates the dangers of iGaming. In the letter, the organization even goes so far to claim that terrorists could leverage poker sites to move money around for a terrorist attack.

Dr. Friedrich Schneider, an expert in illicit economies, says that laundering money on online poker sites would “not be worthwhile.” He added that even if all the money in the poker economy was used to launder cash, it still would not be worth it for criminals.

Feinstein also regurgitates the claim that gamblers would somehow find a way to circumvent fraud measures to hide their true location, or play while underage. On the contrary, fraud controls have proven extremely effective in the three states which have already legalized iGaming. There have been few to no cases of such violations taking place in the years since online gambling has returned to some US states.

The Sen. also brings up the indictment PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg in an attempt to portray the industry as if it were a fraudulent scheme. “The massive Internet gambling investigation led not only to criminal charges to multiple defendants, but also to the seizure and shutting down of the Internet address for PokerStars.com and other sites,” she said. “Then, in 2014, Scheinberg sold his interest in PokerStars to Amaya Gaming, a Canadian gaming company, for some $4.9 billion, while he is still under indictment.”

With so much progress being made in bringing online poker to California, Sen. Feinstein may have felt that now is the time to voice her objections to the industry. Her arguments against iPoker, however, are nothing new, and have found to be extremely exaggerated or untrue.