California Online Poker Bill Passes Assembly Appropriations Vote

California Representative Adam Gray’s Assembly Bill 2863 has passed an important Assembly Appropriations Committee vote today, moving on to consideration by the state’s full Assembly body.

AB 2863’s passage from committee came despite continuing opposition from a hardline, obstructionist group of a half-dozen politically important casino-operating tribal nations, led by the Pechanga and Agua Caliente tribes, along with continuing protests from the Sheldon Adelson-funded Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

State of CaliforniaHowever, a much larger coalition of AB 2863’s supporting entities were on hand to speak in support of the bill’s passage, including six other of the state’s prominent, casino-operating tribes — the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, the United Auburn Indian Community, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

The tribes were joined by an ever-expanding list of organizations now supporting AB 2863.  According to a chart released by the Poker Players Alliance, at least 35 groups now officially support Gray’s bill, including the tribal casinos, independent cardrooms, parimutuel facilities, and labor and service organizations.

Details on the official vote have yet to be updated on the state of California’s official legislation tracking site, though OPR’s Dustin Gouker, who was present at the committee hearing and vote, reported on social media that only one official “nay” was offered, though several committee members were noted by Gouker as abstaining on the vote.

Also worth noting is that amendments to AB 2863 supported by Appropriations chair Lorena Gonzales were officially adopted into the bill prior to the vote.  Among them are a two-level “bad actor” clause which would set an unsuitability date as of the end of 2006, but with a secondary unsuitability date of 2011 end-of-year that would allow a firm such as PokerStars to pay a $20 million penalty to the state, and still seek approval from California regulators.

Also changed in the approved version of AB 2863 are stipulations that the state’s parimutuel outlets would receive up-front revenue payments of as much as $60  million annually to stay out of the online-poker market.  The amended version allows those facilities to receive payments, but only after other general revenue thresholds have been reached.

Several supporting entities may have concerns with this new version of the bill, and ongoing debate appears assured.  The half-dozen opposing tribes are expected to mount serious efforts against AB 2863 as the bill receives full Assembly consideration, and if unsuccessful there, to launch a similar attack in the California State Senate.

Still, many are justifiably enthusiastic about today’s vote and look forward to helping move AB 2863 forward.  Rincon Tribal Chairman Bo Mazzetti was among the officials immediately releasing a statement congratulating the Assembly Appropriations Committee on passing AB 2863.  Said Mazzetti:

“On behalf of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, I applaud the Assembly Appropriations Committee for passing Assembly Bill 2863 and moving the bill to the Assembly Floor. We thank the Assembly Leadership and Assemblyman Gray for their leadership on this issue.

“Assemblyman Gray brought together an unprecedented group of Tribal governments, cardrooms, horse racing industry and labor groups to support Internet poker legislation.

“AB 2863 establishes a safe and secure environment for Californians to use today’s technology to play poker. The bill establishes a tiered tax rate that lets the state receive its fair share of revenue and adjust the rate to ensure that the industry can develop and grow.

“We look forward to the Assembly Floor vote in the coming days and the very real possibility of an Internet poker bill passing this year.”


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