Gatto Cancels California iPoker Hearing as Negotiations Languish
California State Assemblyman Mike Gatto has cancelled an upcoming iPoker hearing before the State Assembly’s “GO” (Governmental Organization) that was initially scheduled for Wednesday, July 8th. The cancellation of the hearing, at which specifics of Gatto’s Assembly Bill 9 (AB 9) were to be debated, likely signals the end of legislative consideration for California’s online poker bills in 2015.
Gatto released a brief statement via his official CA State Assembly web page, in which he indicated that the failure of the state’s possible future stakeholders to negotiate a middle ground left him with no choice but to abandon the bill for the time being. A hardline faction of about nine of the state’s tribal nations has remained adamantly opposed to participation by certain other non-tribal entities. Those tribes’ refusal to share the possible future profits of a future California iPoker industry has resulted in that industry not being able to receive legislative authorization.
The same gridlocked cycle has occurred repeatedly in Sacramento, the state’s capital, in a process now seven years and counting in length.
Here’s the statement that Assemblyman Gatto released:
“I am canceling next week’s hearing of my Assembly Bill 9. I believe this is the right thing to do at this point because there is no consensus on the issue yet. My bill has an “urgency” clause, and thus it can be resuscitated at any time.
Over the past three years, I have met with representatives from nearly every software provider, card room, gaming tribe, racetrack, and internet-poker operator who has an opinion on the subject. I gave my word to both supporters and opponents of AB 9 that my goal was consensus, and that I would not move forward with anything that achieved less than that.
I will continue working to craft legislation on which the interested parties can agree, and which is good for the people and treasury of the state of California.”
The hardline tribes’ refusal to negotiate on who should be allowed to provide online poker services to Californians pointedly affects two other entities, the state’s racetracks and international online-poker giant PokerStars. The racetracks have previously been promised participation in any future state-authorized online poker regime by California Governor Edmund “Jerry” Brown.
PokerStars, now owned by Canada’s Amaya Gaming, has already reached software partnership deals with five other California tribes and card rooms, but has been targeted by a “bad actor” clause designed simply to block Stars’ future participation in the state. In a separate hearing held before the GO Committee last week, several of the state’s assemblymen wondered aloud why such a clause was even needed, given that all potential operators and service providers would be subject to approval state gaming regulators.
Gatto’s hearing cancellation likely plays into an ongoing public-relations war that has emerged in the state in recent weeks. One of the hardline tribes, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, angered many of the state’s poker players with a misleading smear ad on radio targeting both PokerStars and its new owners, Amaya. In response, Amaya and its California partners announced the creation of a new consumer-focused coalition, Californians for Responsible iPoker, to counter the attack ad by the Viejas.
It’s also possible that the hardline tribes may have stepped up their opposition to Stars in recent days, thus forcing Gatto to cancel the hearing. As part of their response to the Viejas smear ad, the Stars-led coalition recently announced its “Let California Play! PokerStars Pro Tour,” promoting the open-market approach favored by Stars and its partners.
The “Let California Play!” tour features five prominent Stars-sponsored poker pros appearing on Stars behalf at a series of California casino and poker-room venues throughout July and August. An update released just this morning confirmed the first of the Californians for Responsible iPoker-led appearances on July 17th at San Diego’s Palomar Card Club.
The cancellation of next week’s hearing renders the traveling tour as more publicity than politically impactful ploy, likely exactly what the hardline tribes’ did by refusing to negotiate over Gatto’s bill. For those with interest, here’s the initial schedule as released by PokerStars and the Californians for Responsible iPoker coalition:
- 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
Still appearing on Stars’s behalf at these venues will be Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker, Vanessa Selbst, Jason Somerville and Liv Boeree, pros who are all patched by Stars at the present time.