California Online Poker Bill AB 431 Passes Appropriations Vote

California online poker bill AB 431, a shell bill calling for the generalized creation of a regulatory framework to govern intrastate online poker in the Golden State, was passed forward from the California State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee for later consideration by the state’s full Assembly body.

caliThe exact vote count for the moving of AB 431 from the Appropriations Committee has yet to be published.  Poker Players Alliance Vice President Rich Muny issued a Tweet stating that the vote was unanimous.  However, California-based Gambling Compliance writer Chris Krafcik posted a countering Tweet minutes later, stating that GOP members of the Appropriations Committee had chosen not to vote on the bill.

Given that the committee includes 17 members — 12 Democratic, five Republican — something on the order of 12-0 in favor with five abstentions or “NVR” (No Vote Recorded) tallies is likely close to the official count.

The vote follows the approval of the shell bill earlier this month by the California Assembly’s “GO” (Governmental Organization) Committee, the origination point for consideration of the measure.

AB 431’s procedural passage comes despite resistance to the shell bill’s advancement from a coalition of nine hardline tribes with prominent casino presences in the state, including the Pechanga, Agua Caliente and Barona tribal nations.  Those tribes protested AB 431’s advancement on the grounds that the bill’s technical specifics had yet to be negotiated between various stakeholders interested in the bill’s passage or defeat.

AB 431 will be temporarily shelved while additional hearings connected to AB 431 and other online-poker measures also under consideration are held this summer.  The intervening months may also allow rival coalitions to again attempt to reach a consensus regarding the bill’s definition of eligible providers.  However, since the hardline group’s demands include the removal or dissolution of the rival coalitions’ focal points, such a consensus is necessarily a long way off.

One of those groups, the PokerStars coalition which also includes the Morongo and San Manuel tribal nations, plus three prominent Los Angeles-area poker rooms (Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino and Bicycle Casino) issued a brie statement congratulating the Appropriations Committee on moving the bill.

That statement:

“We’re pleased that AB 431 passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee today. We are optimistic this new development represents another step forward in the growing effort to authorize and regulate online poker in 2015.

“Success is achievable this year when parties come together to collaborate in the best interests of Californians. Toward that end, we’ve seen a growing coalition coming together in the interest of passing a bill that creates an open, competitive marketplace that protects consumers, provides a financial return for the state, and establishes a strong regulatory system.

“Clearly there is much left to do to draft bill language that meets the needs of Californians for a safe and competitive online market, but success is within our grasp if all stakeholders seriously engage in the process.

“Authorizing online poker will be good for millions of consumers and poker players who will benefit from a safe, regulated environment where they are protected. Our coalition is committed to resolving the remaining issues. We hope others are as well.”

Neither the anti-AB 431, Pechanga-led coalition nor the third group fighting a piece of the California online-poker pie, the state’s pari-mutuel racing industry, have issued a formal comment on the Appropriations Committee approval.  Prospects still remain dim, according to most industry observers, for a California online-poker bill to be signed into law in the state before 2016.

(Updates follow)

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) and the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians have also issued congratulatory statements regarding today’s second committee approval of AB 431.  First, the PPA statement:

PPA Commends California Assembly Appropriations Committee for Passage of Online Poker Legislation

California (May 28, 2015) – The Poker Players Alliance [] today commended Chairman Jimmy Gomez, Vice-Chairman Frank Bigelow, and the members of the California Assembly Appropriations Committee for clearing A.B. 431—legislation to license and regulate online poker.

The legislation will establish the framework for critical online consumer protections that do not exist today to prevent underage and problem gambling as well as ensure poker players in the state have access to a safe and fair online game. Additionally, this legislation gives California’s law enforcement the authority to root out and eliminate fraudulent online poker providers, and benefits the state with an additional revenue stream which is currently not being collected.

“Today marks another historic day for online poker in California. A second committee has cleared a bill that marks a monumental step toward providing thousands of consumers with what they need and deserve—a safe place to play poker online,” said Steven Miller, PPA’s California state director. “Even still, there is much work to be done for this bill to become law. We urge the interested stakeholders to put aside their competitive differences and work together in the best interest of all Californians. California already serves as a hub of Internet innovation and now has a unique opportunity to rise as a leader in the online poker industry, and create new jobs and needed revenue.”

Next, the Rincon statement, which is attributed to Rincon chairman Bo Mazzetti.  The Rincon nation has reached a tentative partnership with Caesars Interactive in the event that California-regulated online poker eventually becomes a reality.

The Rincon presser:

Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians Chairman Mazzetti Commends Appropriations Committee for Moving the Internet Poker Bill

SACRAMENTO – Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians Chairman Bo Mazzetti issued the following statement after Assembly Bill 431 (Gray) passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“On behalf of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, I commend the Appropriations Committee for moving Assembly Bill 431. We thank the Assembly Leadership and Appropriations Chairman for their leadership on this issue.

“Internet poker has been a hotly debated issue for more than a half decade. In the past, progress to reach a compromise stalled once legislation failed to move forward. However, by allowing Internet poker legislation to proceed, lines of communication between stakeholders remain open, allowing the potential for a beneficial resolution between all parties.

“While Internet poker legislation is still evolving, we will continue to work diligently towards a consensus.

“We look forward to continued discussions with stakeholders and the Legislature.”



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