California

Twin California Online Poker Bills Introduced

Two more California online poker bills were introduced on Friday, a matching pair of submissions by  leaders of the California State Senate and Assembly, State Sen. Isadore Hall and Assemblyman Adam Gray.  The parallel bills, identical except for the respective bills’ nomenclature and specific sponsoring information, were both introduced on Thursday, in advance of an upcoming state deadline for the submission of new bills to be considered during the current legislative session.

CaliforniaBoth Hall and Gray chair the Committee on Government Organization (the “GO Committee”) in their respective chambers.  The GO Committees are the traditional launching point for new legislation in California, dealing with the structure and purview of many state legislative matters.  With the heads of both committees sponsoring an online poker bill, the topic of online poker will almost certainly receive multiple legislative hearings and a close inspection over the coming months.

The respective bills, SB 278 (Gray) and AB 431 (Hall), were introduced as stubs, meaning that they include only basic, introductory text at the present time but will be fleshed out with specifics in the near future.

Here’s the basic language of the two bills in their initial form (nomenclature from the Senate version):

An act to add Chapter 5.2 (commencing with Section 19990.101) to Division 8 of the Business and Professions Code, relating to gambling.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

SB 278, as introduced, Hall. Gambling: Internet poker.

Existing law, the Gambling Control Act, provides for the licensure and regulation of various legalized gambling activities and establishments by the California Gambling Control Commission and the investigation and enforcement of those activities and establishments by the Department of Justice.

This bill would authorize the operation of an Internet poker Web site within the borders of the state. The bill would require the commission, in consultation with the department, to promulgate regulations for intrastate Internet poker. The bill would require those regulations to include, but not be limited to, a licensing process for an individual or entity to become an operator of an Internet poker Web site and rules for the operation of an Internet poker Web site.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

SECTION 1.

The Legislature finds and declares both of the following:

(a) In October 2006, the United States Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) (31 U.S.C. Secs. 5361 et seq.), which generally prohibits the use of banking instruments, including credit cards, checks, and fund transfers, for interstate Internet gambling.

(b) UIGEA essentially prohibits online gambling by United States citizens, but includes exceptions that permit individual states to create a regulatory framework to enable intrastate Internet gambling, if the bets or wagers are made exclusively within a single state under certain circumstances.

SEC. 2.

Chapter 5.2 (commencing with Section 19990.101) is added to Division 8 of the Business and Professions Code, to read:

Chapter 5.2. Authorized Intrastate Internet Poker

Article 1. General Provisions

19990.101.
An Internet poker Web site authorized pursuant to this chapter may be operated within the borders of the state in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, including, but not limited to, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (31 U.S.C. Secs. 5361 et seq.).

Article 2. Definitions

19990.201.
For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply:

(a) “Commission” means the California Gambling Control Commission.

(b) “Department” means the Department of Justice.

Article 3. Administration

19990.301.
The commission, in consultation with the department, shall promulgate regulations for intrastate Internet poker. These regulations shall include, but not be limited to, both of the following:

(a) A licensing process for an individual or entity to become an operator of an Internet poker Web site.

(b) Rules for the operation of an Internet poker Web site.

The two bills join two others, submitted by CA State Assemblymen Mike Gatto and Reginald Jones-Sawyer, that have already been submitted for consideration during the current year’s legislative session.

No specifics have yet been added to the bill dealing with the two most contentious and divisive issues that have stymied California online poker legislation in the past, “bad actor” inclusions and the elgibility of horsetracks and other pari-mutuel facilities to offer online poker.

Amaya Gaming-owned PokerStars, which leads a coalition of state tribes and licensed card rooms which opposes such bad-actor inclusions, quickly released a statement welcoming the introduction of the two new bills.  The official statement, below, is attributed to the coalition formed by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, California’s three largest card clubs – the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino and the Bicycle Casino – and the Amaya Gaming Group, which owns and operates PokerStars:

“We are optimistic about iPoker chances this year now that Senator Isadore Hall and Assembly Member Adam Gray have each introduced an iPoker spot bill this week (SB 278-Hall and AB 431-Gray). As Governmental Organization Committee chairs, this is a significant development and underscores that momentum is building to get an iPoker bill across the finish line in 2015. We will continue to work closely with Senator Hall, Assembly Member Gray and all legislators on the content and approach of legislation in the coming weeks and months.

“Our position on iPoker policy remains the same. We support an iPoker bill which establishes a vibrant, competitive, fully inclusive marketplace with choices for consumers, and which also 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 to be successful passing iPoker legislation this year, the various interests need to work together. We must abandon the failed policies of the past that divided the various parties. Instead of using the legislative process to pick winners and losers, any successful legislation must allow for a variety of providers to participate in the market while relying on regulators to determine strict suitability standards.”

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