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Second California Web Poker Bill Introduced

Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer Puts Forth His Proposal


As of Thursday, the state of California now has two online poker bills on the table in 2015.

The first bill, introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, was put forth late last year. On Thursday, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer unveiled his own proposal at legalizing online card playing.

Jones-Sawyer’s bill is called the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015.

The coalition that includes PokerStars, which is trying to secure a place in a future Golden State market, two tribal gaming groups, as well as the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino and the Bicycle Casino, is much happier with the Jones-Sawyer bill than the one introduced by Gatto, according to a statement from the group. “[W]e are encouraged that his approach will move the discussion of online poker forward in a positive direction,” the coalition said in the statement.

Basically, the Jones-Sawyer bill contains language that is more favorable to PokerStars having access to the market, as long as it has partners. So-called “bad-actor” provisions in other bills, past and present, could hurt PokerStars thanks to the company’s prior run-in with the U.S. government. The Jones-Sawyer bill essentially is softer on bad-actor clauses.

However, as a result, the Jones-Sawyer bill is already disliked by other tribal groups. Gatto’s bill was condemned by the PokerStars coalition, but liked by others. The Jones-Sawyer bill also differs from Gatto’s proposal in its language that would help racetracks get involved with the online gaming industry, another huge point of debate among gaming groups that hasn’t been resolved.

According to a statement from Jones-Sawyer, web poker was first discussed over seven years ago in the state, but there has never been a vote in any committee on any previously introduced bill. He is hoping to change that, but it’s important for poker players not to get too hopeful.

The stalemate will eventually break, but the statements released by various groups in response to both current I-poker bills doesn’t make 2015 seem too likely.

There could still be a lot of work to be done before a consensus is reached between powerful gaming interests in California, which has the nation’s richest tribal casino industry.

Another possible roadblock for online poker this year in California is the investigation into a former state gaming official who has been accused of corruption. Though it doesn’t involve web poker, the investigation reportedly could weaken the appetite for gambling expansion plans.

The Jones-Sawyer bill contains language that indicates it would be possible to go to prison for playing on an offshore poker site while within the state of California.