Things are looking grim for online poker in California.
Last week, optimistic signals came from sources in the state legislature. A member of Assemblyman Adam Gray's staff — Gray sponsored AB 2863, which would legalize and regulate online poker in the state — said the amended version of the bill "should secure the two-thirds vote" necessary to pass the Assembly and that it would be "fairly well-received" in the Senate once that happened. The possibility of a Monday vote was tabbed by the L.A. Times.
The situation has taken a turn for the worse in the ensuing days.
Amaya, parent company of PokerStars, and the coalition of tribal interests that back it, fired a letter voicing strong opposition to the amended bill that called for a five-year ban for companies accepting U.S. wagers after the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
"As now drafted, the bill arbitrarily and unfairly bars one operator from competing with the supporters of these amendments in the iPoker market indefinitely," the letter reads.
The amended bill has the support of a tribal coalition that seeks to keep Amaya on the sidelines and has been opposed to previous legislation that called for either a five-year ban or a $20 million fine. All that appears to have happened is that the script has been flipped — the pro-Amaya coalition is now looking to block the bill's passage while the anti-Amaya side is pushing to get it voted into law.
Steve Ruddock at OnlinePokerReport reported that Amaya is arguing the amendment makes the AB 2863 a bill of attainder — a bill that inflicts punishment on a specific person or group without due process. Such bills are unconstitutional.
Further complicating matters, a subset of the anti-Amaya coalition wants even harsher penalties levied, calling for a five-year ban that begins not with the passage of the bill but with the first legal hand dealt online, Dave Palermo reported Saturday.
With all of this as the backdrop, a Monday vote never came up as the bill appears nowhere in the Assembly's daily notes from Monday.
The battle lines have been drawn and it appears neither side is going to budge, with time running short before the legislature adjourns and the bill is shelved for the year at the end of the month.
Photo courtesy of Sharon Brucker, freeimages.com
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