California's New 2015 Online Poker Bill6 years ago
Earlier this week, CaliforniaAssemblyman Mike Gatto introduced AB 9, an online poker bill that is set to receive consideration for the 2015 legislative session.
The "Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015" came as a bit of a surprise, with most expecting Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer to serve the first volley in yet another attempt at the approval of online poker in California. Jones-Sawyer promised as much after doing a bit of tinkering with the particulars of AB 2291, his 2014 proposal that never progressed as far as a vote.
Gatto's bill is apparently intended as a starting point for discussion among the gaming interests involved considering his statement to PokerNews that he expects debate over the proposal to last a year. It may last longer than that, as racetracks and bad actors are not included.
Those issues remain perhaps the two most controversial, and you can bet that the horse racing industry will vehemently object. As will the coalition that has allied PokerStars with two powerful native tribes and three large cardrooms. Any attempt to pass legislation excluding those gaming interests will prolong the discord that has now reached half a decade and counting.
Initial Deposits and Withdrawals at Land-Based Operations
One new idea that appeared on AB 9 is the requirement that online poker players must make their initial deposits and various withdrawals of certain yet undetermined amounts at casinos or designated service centers established for that purpose. While many have pointed out that such a format may prove to be burdensome for a number of players, I believe it's an idea that needs further review and consideration.
It does somewhat defeat the purpose of the convenience of being able to deposit and play poker online. And there is an argument to be made that some players may want to play at sites whose centers of operations are perhaps a long distance from their local casino, cardroom or service center.
However, Gatto's idea will quiet the anti-online poker activists who believe that minors will gain access to Internet sites, and also make aims in preventing fraud and money laundering. Another by-product of the requirement is increased traffic at land-based gambling locations under the premise that depositing and/or withdrawing players will likely gamble live since they are on site anyway.
The argument that players who dislike this requirement will patronize unregulated sites doesn't seem to carry any weight, as it is likely that the major unregulated offshore sites that continue servicing the U.S. market will be forced from California, just as has happened in New Jersey and Nevada.
This idea of Gatto's requires more thought and discussion and shouldn't be immediately discarded. Online poker players are a resourceful bunch who sometimes go to great lengths to play. Evidence of that is the growing number of U.S. players who have relocated abroad in order to play legally at the largest sites.
Those on a limited budget who deposit only $30 or $40 and play for fun or recreationally (lose) may be disadvantaged by Gatto's proposal. And those are the players that the industry is trying to attract. However, it's likely that service centers may pop up in many locations, making the in-person deposit idea not as logistically burdensome as some might expect.
More Bill(s) Coming
AB 9 won't be the only option for legislators in the 2015 session. Jones-Sawyer may take another turn at-bat as promised. It's believed that so-called bad actors and the horse racing industry will be included.
Gatto indicated that he's willing to modify his proposal with regard to those gaming interests once the discussions take on a more serious nature. It seems to me that including them right from the get-go would have made for a better starting point. We'll have to wait and see.
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