No Online Poker in California in 2015

In breaking news, the possibility of online poker legislation passing in California for 2015 has come to an end.

californiaToday marks the end of the 2015 California legislative session thus leaving poker players in the Golden State waiting for 2016.

The only bill that will appear to move was Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 431. Gray’s Representatives confirmed that the bill will not be seeing any last-minute movement, and it wouldn’t matter if it did since there is no Senate bill in position to follow. Gray’s camp acknowledged that his bill will be resubmitted when the legislature reconvenes in January 2016.

Gray’s bill was passed by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee to mark the first time online poker has received a positive vote in the state, but it was really nothing to get too excited over. It only happened because Gray didn’t introduce the bill with an urgency stipulation so it needed to advance from the committee to stay alive, and the reason it could pass was that it was an empty bill that didn’t side with either of the two factions. Even then, he had to postpone the hearing to give himself more time to appease concerns of one side and get the votes.

As reported earlier in the year, four online poker bills in the California legislature were submitted, but hearings kept being rescheduled making the possibility of online poker in California look dim.

The Hope For 2016

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who introduced one of the bills, said that he thought there was a 50% chance of legislation passing this year. By the end of February, after holding meetings with all the interested parties, his optimism had disappeared and he revised his projection to a 35% chance for an online poker bill to pass in California by the end of 2016.

The two main issues splitting the factions at the beginning of the year was the participation of the horse racing industry and a bad-actor clause aimed at keeping PokerStars out of the market. The online Poker giant is expected to get approval in New Jersey by the end of the third quarter as predicted by Amaya’s CEO. But we are almost half way through September and no news has surfaced as of yet.

The biggest change was that three of the 13 bands of Indians who requested the exclusion of horse racing and PokerStars last year (Rincon, Pala, and the United Auburn Indian Community) switched sides and said they would accept the participation of horse racing and not seek a bad-actor clause.

That created a stronger case along with San Manuel, Morongo, Amaya/PokerStars, Caesars, and the card clubs Commerce, Hawaiian Gardens, and The Bicycle to go against the 10 remaining bands.

Pechanga chairman Mark Macarro offered a compromise to share revenues with the racing industry back in June, which could also participate as affiliates, if they gave up the pursuit of operating licenses. Although there might be a way for racetracks to maximize profits without actually operating a site, the offer was summarily rejected..

With no hope for a compromise, Gatto gave up on his bill for the year in July, canceling a scheduled hearing in the Governmental Organization Committee. Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer held out hope until August.