Two California lawmakers are pushing competing bills that would each legalize online poker in the Golden State, but which have significant differences.
The two bills highlight the fault line separating the various interests that want to remove the ban on online gaming in the state.
Despite those differences, both bills’ authors, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (AB 9) and AB 167 author Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, have hinted that they might eventually work together on a compromise bill.
The major players in this contest include two consortiums of gaming tribes, card clubs, racetracks and gaming companies that would like to make inroads into California.
This is not the first year that the attempt has been made to legalize online poker. Various attempts have been made in the past six years, mainly by lawmakers who have now been termed out of office.
This is the first time that Jones-Sawyer and Gatto have made the attempt.
The goal is to create a new revenue stream for the state and to provide a safe haven for California’s online poker players, who play whether it’s legal or not, which means that the state is losing that tax revenue and consumers are leaving themselves open to being ripped off.
Some proponents are getting restless and want action.
Pala Band of Mission Indians, which operates a large casino resort in San Diego County, is already familiar with online poker, having established a poker site in New Jersey. Many other Golden State tribes would love to jump into the game.
Lee Acededo, executive director of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, pointed out that internet poker is a fact of life, and that what remains to be determined is how gaming tribes will participate.
Gatto’s bill would require a $5 million licensing fee for online poker providers. Its most controversial section is a “bad actor” clause seemingly aimed at the Morongo Band of Mission Indians consortium partner PokerStars.
Jones-Sawyer’s bill does not have a bad actor clause and would allow the participation of the horse-racing industry.