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PokerStars Facing Five-Year Ban with Amended California Bill; Monday Vote Possible (UPDATED)

  • California may soon vote on an online poker bill that would carry a five-year ban for PokerStars.

California lawmakers are targeting a Monday vote for an amended online poker bill in California, one that would see PokerStars and other so-called "bad actors" face a mandatory five-year ban from the state, Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

The long-running push to get online poker regulated in California has been narrowed down to a final sticking point in recent months as previous obstacles such as an agreement with the horse racing industry have been cleared. It's come down to what punishments should be levied on so-called "bad actors," companies that operated in the U.S. unlawfully.

California's powerful tribal factions have been split on the issue. One coalition, with the support of PokerStars, backed Assemblyman Adam Gray's AB 2863, which called for either a one-time fine of $20 million or a five-year ban for such companies. An opposing coalition initially called for a $60 million fine and a 10-year ban but has since brought that down to five years.

It's not clear what the size of the monetary penalty is, if there is one, in the amended bill's language. But if the bill does get put forth for a vote on Monday as the Times reported, it would appear a compromise has been reached on suitability language. Last week, the bill was pulled from the floor for "final negotiations" as no agreement had been reached.

Gray had previously opposed the mandatory ban, pointing out that PokerStars is under new ownership in Amaya that had no say in the company's actions during the time period in question.

A consensus between the two sides is necessary for the bill to get through the Assembly, according to Dustin Gouker at OnlinePokerReport. If it does make it through the Assembly vote, it must also be passed by the Senate before Aug. 31.

That may sound like a tall order considering how long it's taken the bill to get to this point — legislation has been in the works for nine years — but it's far from impossible, according to both OPR and the Times. Gouker reported that "there would be a lot of momentum" for it to move through the Senate quickly, while a member of Assemblyman Gray's staff told McGreevy the bill should be "fairly well received in the Senate."

UPDATE (8/18 at 4:19 PT)

The coalition consisting of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, California’s three largest card clubs – Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino and Bicycle Casino – and Amaya Inc., owner of PokerStars issued a letter being circulated to the CA Assembly expressing opposition to the amended bill, and are strongly urging a "no" vote.

The letter expresses that the updated bill "raises constitutional questions that will likely result in litigation and prevent implementation of crucial consumer protections while California forgoes hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues for schools, public safety and other priorities."

The coalition also referenced an opinion from Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard, who was mentioned as being the world's foremost Constitutional Law expert. According to the letter, Tribe believes "these kinds of amendments were first being proposed that, if adopted, they would constitute 'trial by legislature'; in other words, a bill of attainder absolutely prohibited under the Constitution."

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