New Online Poker Measure Introduced in California

Online poker has consistently been a topic of debate in the state of California. For years now, the state has tried to create legislation that will appease every group, the tribes, card rooms, race tracks and government officials. It seems no one can come to an agreement as to who should be allowed to offer online poker gaming and how it should be offered. Bills continue to be proposed in the state yet none can seem to make any headway. Just a few days ago, a new measure was introduced that once again puts online poker back up for discussion.

Adam Gray, a Representative of California, has introduced Assembly Bill 2863. The bill was created to try and legalize and regulate online poker in the state. Gray is no stranger to creating legislation on the subject of online poker. In 2015, Gray was responsible for creating AB 431, a similar bill to this year’s as an option of compromise for those looking to be involved in the industry. As the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee Chairman, Gray was able to get the legislation to come up for vote and pass through but that was as far as the bill was able to move.

With AB 2863, there is an additional compromise that may be able to see the bill receive movement. The pari-mutuel facilities of the state have been offered a payment per year to not become involved in the industry, as part of the bill’s language. Certain tribes feel that the race tracks have no reason to become involved in poker gaming when they have never offered any poker services before. With this bill, race tracks would not be allowed to gain a license for online poker operation but would be able to earn a maximum of $60 million each year from online poker revenues generated by those who are licensed, to agree to the exclusion.

The $60 million in payments would be provided by the licensing fees that operators will have to pay to officially offer their services as well as the tax revenues paid. The belief is that the tribes will be happy that the race tracks will not be involved and the tracks will feel compensated for not being able to offer such services.

The license to operate would last for seven years but fees involved have yet to be set in the measure. In the past, it was suggested that operators would pay $15 million in licensing fees as well as 15% of gross gaming revenues to be taxed. Providers of online gaming services such as marketing and software must also be licensed but will not have the fee prices like the actual operators.

This measure also does not include a ‘bad actor’ clause. Many tribes wanted a bad actor clause included so that brands such as PokerStars could not be involved in the industry within the state. PokerStars has already partnered with a few card rooms and tribes and it seems that this is one issue that is not going to be an issue any longer. Most of the Indian tribes seem to be willing to overlook the bad actor clause if the race tracks are prevented from offering services.

The bill also places a felony charge on anyone who plays poker at a site while within the state that is unlicensed. Most of the previous legislation introduced stated this was illegal but did not state any charges in regards to taking part in unlicensed gaming.

For now, the bill will be reviewed and will need to be voted upon to move forward.