New online poker bills were introduced in the California legislature Thursday by State Sen. Isadore Hall and Assemblyman Adam Gray.
Senate Bill 278 is the first online poker bill to be introduced in the state senate this session, making the identical AB 431 stand out from the two bills already introduced by Assemblymen Mike Gatto and Reggie Jones-Sawyer as the only one having a companion bill on the other side.
Hall and Gray serve as chairmen of their legislative house's Governmental Organization Committee, which is the policy committee that oversees gaming within the state, positioning them well to lead discussion on the issue. Hall held California's only hearing on online poker last year.
The existence of three different bills on the issue increases doubts that a consensus will be reached to pass legislation this year. Gatto's AB 9 and Jones-Sawyer's AB 167 conflict on the two most contentious issues, with Gatto's bill excluding horse racing and having a bad actor's clause while Jones-Sawyer's allows for the tracks' participation and softens the bad-actor language.
That has created two clear factions within California's gaming industry, with Morongo, San Manuel, Commerce, Hawaiian Gardens and The Bicycle leading support for Jones-Sawyer's legislation while Pechanga and Agua Caliente stand behind Gatto's bill. Text for the Hall-Gray bill won't appear on www.leginfo.ca.gov until tomorrow, but onlinepokerreport.com indicates it is essentially a placeholder bill with details to be filled in at a later date in order to file before the Feb. 27 deadline for introducing legislation this session.
In a joint press release, Hall and Gray gave this statement: "The issue of iPoker in California has historically been divisive; dealing legislators, the governor and the public a folding hand. It is time to work together, stop bluffing and take control of this issue. Our bills do not create winners and losers. Our bills do not take one entity’s side over another. Our bills will give the Legislature, the Governor, tribal governments, other gaming entities, technology providers and the public an opportunity to have an open, honest and thorough debate on this issue."
"This will not be a rushed process. Any iPoker proposal must put California taxpayers first and must ensure a safe and responsible entertainment option for adults. If done correctly, this legislation could serve as a national model for other states to follow. We think we can do it and we’re all in to move California iPoker forward this legislative session."