After seven years of serious discussions and myriad measures to regulate online poker in California, there haven’t been too many opportunities on the table that would attract the support of PokerStars. The majority of attempts at online poker regulation have included poignant bad actors clauses, specifically designed to keep operators like PokerStars out of the state. Alas, amidst all the anti-PokerStars legislation we’ve already seen, a new online poker bill has been introduced with no mention of a bad actors clause, and the operator wasted no time in showing its support.
PokerStars’ California alliance includes Amaya Gaming (parent company of PokerStars), two prominent tribes—the Morongo and San Manuel—and the state’s three largest land-based card rooms, Bicycle Casino, Commerce Club and Hawaiian Gardens Casino. On Friday, January 23, just one day after Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer introduced his new online poker bill, AB 167, the California alliance issued a referential statement.
|“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. We are still looking at the fine details of AB 167, but we are encouraged that his approach will move the discussion of online poker forward in a positive direction. The bill seeks to establish a vibrant, competitive, fully inclusive marketplace with choices for consumers that enacts strong consumer protections; requires strict oversight and regulation of operators and licensees; and ensures a financial return for the state.
“Our coalition strongly believes that – in order to be successful passing iPoker legislation that brings much-needed protection to consumers in a currently unregulated market – the various interests need to work together. In place of previous attempts to use the legislative process to provide competitive advantages to a few operators, Assembly Member Jones-Sawyer’s bill brings parties with diverse interests together to move legislation forward.
“It’s time to move on, and move forward. We are pleased to see that Assembly Member Jones-Sawyer recognizes this. We applaud his efforts to shift the discussion in a new direction and hopefully more fruitful direction.”
California ‘Bad Actors’ Bills
California’s desire to legalize online poker began in February of 2008 when Assemblyman Levine proposed AB 2026, and act to study the activity for the furtherance of future regulation. From there, Senator Wright introduced the first internet poker regulatory act in 2010, but withdrew it from the table a few months later.
Then in December of 2010, Senator Correa introduced the state’s second online poker bill. Although no bad actors clause was present in its original context, after Black Friday, the bill was amended to exclude any unauthorized internet gaming firm “that has accepted wagers from persons in the United States” prior to “the effective date of UIGEA”. Such entities, which would include PokerStars, “shall not be eligible for either a license… or to be found suitable to provide goods or services to an entity licensed under this chapter.”
From that moment on, every California internet gambling or exclusive online poker bill introduced featured some variation of the forthwith dubbed ‘bad actors’ clause. That includes a total of eight additional attempts from 2011 to date, ending with Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s AB 9, with which Jones-Sawyer’s new online poker bill will inevitably compete in 2015.