California State Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr.

Reggie Jones-Sawyer Reportedly Reschedules AB 167 California iPoker Hearing

California State Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer is reported to have rescheduled a once-cancelled hearing on the latest version of his online-poker regulatory measure, Assembly Bill 167.  AB 167 was one of two competing iPoker bills that was to serve as the basis for a California Assembly “GO Committee” hearing that was cancelled last week.

California State Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr.

California State Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr.

The cancellation of the July 8th hearing followed the shelving of the other California online poker bill, AB 9, by its primary sponsor, Assemblyman Mike Gatto.  Gatto cited intractable differences between competing stakeholders as the reason for withdrawing AB 9.  A hardline tribal faction backing Gatto’s version of the online-poker regulatory effort has refused to compromise on allowing other interests into the future industry.  Those interests include the state’s horseracing industry and, in online poker, global giant PokerStars, who potential tribal rivals, the hardline group of nine or so California tribes, would like to bar by inserting a controversial “bad actor” clause that would strip the California Gaming Commission of its normal regulatory authority in the Stars case.

Amid all this, Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer quietly agreed to pull AB 167 from the agenda for the GO Committee’s July 8th hearing slate.  Now, however, according to an unconfirmed report, Jones-Sawyer may give AB 167 one more try.

According to EGR North America, Jones-Sawyer is planning on rescheduling the cancelled GO Commission hearing for sometime in late August, following California’s current legislative recess.  However, the bill faces an unmoving September 11th deadline, after which it would be a dead bill.  This likelihood comes despite the fact that Jones-Sawyer’s AB 167 bill is a compromise measure, allowing the state’s pari-mutuel facilities to take part and also declining to insert a PokerStars-targeting “bad actor” clause into its language.

However, Jones-Sawyer’s public websites show no mention of Ab 167’s once-cancelled hearing having been rescheduled.  More importantly, the California State Assembly’s legislative tracker shows no rescheduling of the hearing at this time, even though such notifications can lag by a day or two in the scheduling process.  Therefore, whether or not the bill will get an August hearing remains uncertain.

One factor that might stand in favor of the bill getting a last gasp for air is the matter of PokerStars.  The online poker giant, now owned by Canada’s Amaya Gaming, is in the midst of conducting its “Let California Play!” tour in several casinos around the Golden State, bringing along five of its well-known Stars-sponsored pros to meet the public and lobby indirectly for the passage of AB 167, the California online-poker bill that lacks the Stars-barring language.

Appearing on PokerStars’ behalf, starting today at San Diego’s Palomar Card Club, are Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker, Vanessa Selbst, Jason Somerville and Liv Boeree.  Negreanu is arriving fresh off his deep Main Event run at the 2015 World Series of Poker, where he just missed the “November Nine” final table, finishing 11th.

The PokerStars-organized “Let California Play!” tour already includes eight casino and cardroom stops, and stretches well into August.  A presser Stars issued last month announcing the tour suggested that additional stops may be scheduled as well, which leads into the other possible reason for Jones-Sawyer to keep AB 167 alive: It would allow the Stars pros to appear as players, even if sponsored ones, and give the Assembly GO Committee a bit of the player and consumer perspective that has been sorely lacking from all previous legislative hearings to date.

Here’s the original “Let California Play!” appearance schedule, which, as always, is subject to change:

  • Friday July 17: Palomar Card Club, San Diego
  • Saturday July 18: Lake Elsinore Casino, Lake Elsinore
  • Sunday, July 19: Seven Mile Casino, Chula Vista
  • Saturday, July 25: Napa Valley Casino, American Canyon
  • Sunday, Aug 2: Stones Gambling Hall, Citrus Heights
  • Thursday, Aug 6: The Aviator Casino, Delano
  • Friday, Aug 7: Diamond Jim’s Casino, Rosamond
  • Sunday, Aug 9: Turlock Poker Room, Turlock

Late update: PokerStars has added three more appearances to the tour as follows:

  • Sunday, July 26, Lucky Chances Casino, Colma
    — Featuring PokerStars Team Pros Chris Moneymaker & Jason Somerville
  • Saturday, August 1, 500 Club, Clovis
    — Featuring PokerStars Team Pro Jason Somerville
  • Saturday, August 8, Club One Casino, Fresno
    — Featuring PokerStars Team Pros Daniel Negreanu & Vanessa Selbst

How it all plays into AB 167’s future remains to be seen.  Chances remain very thin that any California online poker bill carrying specific regulatory provisions will move forward in 2015, due to the blocking efforts of the hardline tribes, which include the Pechanga, Agua Caliente and Viejas tribal nations.

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