California to Consider Several Gaming Bills

Sports betting, DFS and iPoker on the table

Golden State lawmakers will begin consideration of bills legalizing online poker, sports betting and daily fantasy sports when the California Assembly begins its 2016 session.

The Governmental Oversight Committee will hold hearings on three bills, with online poker being the most controversial. AB 431, which was introduced in the last session, would have legalized and regulated online poker. It has been reincarnated as AB 167, sponsored by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer.

This bill would allow racetracks to participate, and it does not include a “bad actor” provision that would have locked out PokerStars from participation.

Three online gaming bills were introduced last year.

The GO Committee held a January 6 hearing on AB 431, but Chairman Adam Gray did not recommend any action at that time.

Proponents claim that online poker could generate $380 million annually. California players account for an estimated 16 percent of the U.S. revenue and 4 percent of worldwide revenue from iPoker.

Despite repeated attempts to pass online poker legislation, disagreements between two groups of gaming tribes have prevented a consensus from developing. These include a group that opposes the participation by PokerStars, the world’s largest poker site, and by racetracks, who point out that currently they are the only gaming participants who are legally allowed to use the internet.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) last month urged the GO Committee “to take the next step in legalizing and regulating online poker in the state.”

CNIGA’s Steve Stallings urged the GO Committee to act on iPoker before sports betting or daily fantasy sports.

Referring to past differences between tribal governments on online gaming, Stallings declared, “However, I believe, the Jones-Sawyer bill opens the door to compromises that can finally bring the majority together. We were excruciatingly close last year, and I would like to see CNIGA play a major role in helping to unify the Indian tribes on the key issues that previously divided us, and take the lead in supporting a partner bill in the state Senate.”