New York Online Poker Bill Advances, California Measures Die
Two populous US states took divergent paths yesterday regarding the official regulation of online poker. In New York the resubmitted version of a regulatory measure easily passed an initial committee vote, while in California, all existing online-poker bills filed as “urgency” statutes have run out of time according to the California Legislature’s Joint Rule 56, meaning that they are officially dead for the current session.
Bonacic Bill Clears Racing Committee Vote
First, the good part of the legislative slate. New York State Sen. John Bonacic’s third attempt at an online-poker bill, now referred to as S5302B, passed from the Bonacic-chaired Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. Despite Bonacic’s chairmanship of the committee, however, this is the first time that an online-poker bill has been passed through any committee in New York. Bonacic introduced earlier versions of his legislation in 2013 and 2015, but only this latest version was able to garner enough support to move forward.
S5302B did more than just slide by. The bill passed with ease on a 9-0 vote, and now moves on to the NY Senate Finance Committee, a mandatory detour for any bill with budgetary implications. No hearings or votes have yet been set for the bill in its next legislative hurdle.
Said Bonacic, about the committee vote, “S.5302-B took a necessary step forward today with its vote out of the Racing Committee. The Bill now goes to the Finance Committee and I anticipate having ongoing discussions with my colleagues in both Houses regarding this bill as session moves forward.”
Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas also issued a brief congratulatory statement on the bill’s early success. “The PPA thanks Chairman John Bonacic and the Committee for acting quickly to pass iPoker legislation through the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. If passed into law, the bill would provide New Yorkers who play poker online with a safe and regulated environment, while bringing in revenue for the state,” said Pappas. “We encourage the Finance Committee to move quickly to usher the legislation through the Senate, and also urge the Assembly to move forward with their respective legislation.” The PPA has actively supported the Bonacic legislation, and Pappas’s statement also references a parallel bill to Bonacic’s measure which still awaits its initial vote.
California Gridlock Claims More Victims
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the country, efforts to move online-poker legislation forward in California have finally and officially run out of time, reaching a mandatory deadline for consideration. The dead measures include both the AB 431 compromise measure championed by CA State Rep. Adam Gay and the primary alternative, the AB 167 bill offered earlier by Reginald Jones-Sawyer.
The Jones-Sawyer bill had previously slipped into obscurity, and the fate of the Gray bill was sealed last month when Gray, the chairman of the California State Assembly’s “GO” (Governmental Organization) Committee, quietly pulled AB 431 from a scheduled third hearing and ordered it inactive, to await yesterday’s deadline guillotine.
Meanwhile, the GO Committee and other California legislative committees have rushed to take up the topic of daily fantasy sports (DFS). A DFS regulatory measure easily passed a full Assembly vote last week, on a 62-1 tally, though it remains to be seen whether DFS can stay clear of the gambling-industry warfare that has spelled doom to several different poker bills in the state over the past half dozen years.
Speaking of the PPA, the poker-industry lobbying group also referenced the DFS bill’s success, calling on California’s legislators to show similar authenticity in regards to protecting consumers’ interest in regards to online poker.
“The swift passage of a DFS regulatory bill shows that California lawmakers do in fact care about protecting consumers who play games online,” said Pappas. “Therefore, we urge the legislature to immediately move legislation that also protects Californians who want to play poker online through appropriate authorization and regulation. If legislating consumer protections for DFS players is a priority for the legislature, the same should be true for Internet poker players.”
Nonetheless — and despite the false claims made within bills such as Jones-Sawyer’s AB 167 — protecting the consumer has had nothing to do with the actual poker bills’ respective fates. That’s been a battle between moderate gambling interests and a hardline but powerful minority of casino-oriented tribal nations, who have continued to demand market exclusivity in exchange for allowing the poker bills to move forward. Since the other stakeholders have no reason to accede to that demand, the topic remains stymied.
And, for the moment, back to square one as well. GO Committee chair Gray has yet to comment on whether he will reintroduce his compromise poker legislation, which remains the only viable path forward for online poker in the US’s most populous state. However, the day that dream becomes reality now seems as far off as ever.