Category Archives: California Legislation

California Online Poker

California Online Poker Bill Passes Committee

California Online Poker: The “most-vetted bill” in California this year passed through the California Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

“If we held every bill to the standards we’ve held this bill, we wouldn’t have any bills,” AB 2863 sponsor Adam Gray said. Gray’s measure regulates and legalizes online poker in California, the largest US state by population, and first heads to the full Assembly for consideration. The California State Senate will act only if the Assembly passes Gray’s bill.

“Believe it or not, this is the furthest internet poker legislation has gotten in California. Now it will move to the full Assembly, and based on testimony today, there is still work to do to ensure its final passage,” Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas said. “We stand ready to work with California lawmakers to produce a product that puts consumers first and removes many of the obstacles that have bogged this bill down for years. We commend Assembly member Adam Gray for his hard work and commitment to do what is right for California consumers.”

Several amendments were tacked onto the bill in the last week following an hour-long debate last Tuesday, including a five-year waiting period or $20 million fine for any company that serviced the California market between 2006 and 2011. Any operators in the market post-2011 would likely be barred from getting a license altogether.

“We’ve spent the past week negotiating with the Committee chairperson and Committee staff,” said Gray. “We have strong suitability language in the bill.”

Much of the hearing focused on “tainted assets” such as the list of PokerStars’ former California players. Also debated was whether a $20 million payment from a company like PokerStars that was in the market between 2006 and 2011 was sufficient or whether that amount should be considerably more or exist altogether. If the $20 million were paid, a company could access the California market without needing to wait five years.

“The bill has a three-year blackout period on those very lists,” Gray said of PokerStars’ former Golden State customer list. “Could we go further to permanently ban the lists? We could have that discussion.”

Gray added that he might be able to get a better list of people who like poker currently from Facebook rather than PokerStars’ old California player list. PokerStars left the US market on Black Friday in April 2011, over five years ago.

California racing lobbyist Barry Broad was one of a handful of witnesses to testify on Wednesday and said, “With regard to these amendments, this bill continues to be an example of how to do things right in terms of moving a complicated issue forward.” He noted that a broad coalition of interests are in support of Gray’s AB 2863.

Leland Kinter of the Yocha Dehe Tribe, which operates a casino resort, said in his testimony, “Our position is not driven by profit motive or business model, but rather principles of heightened gaming rights.” He added that the amendments fail to address tainted assets appropriately and said that bad actors should be disqualified.

Assemblyman Ian Calderon applauded Gray on his endurance during a multi-year effort to pass online poker legislation in California, but said he was concerned about bad actors being allowed to operate. Therefore, he asked Gray where he got the $20 million number from. “They could do a lot more and maybe should do a lot more,” Calderon said. Gray responded by saying he negotiated the number with the Committee’s leadership.

Discussion of tainted assets and bad actors continued en masse, with many committee members with concerns seemingly looking forward to debate in the full Assembly about the issues.

“I want to get there,” Assemblyman Donald Wagner said. “You have someone that everyone says was a bad actor and you give a new date and an opportunity.” Wagner worried that PokerStars would have an unfair advantage given its old e-mail list and years of experience.

Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia asked about the “grey” period between 2006 and 2011, when sites like PokerStars were servicing the market and reaping millions of dollars.

“The simple fact is that the vetting and regulatory process of these licenses could cost more than $20 million,” he said. Garcia asked for the fee to be “far more” than $20 million and also asked Gray to address the unintended consequences of gaming in future revisions to the bill.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk questioned whether AB 2863 should punish Amaya Gaming, the current owners of PokerStars, since the Canadian company didn’t acquire the site until after it departed the US market altogether. “The biggest tainted asset here is the PokerStars name,” Quirk said. “The founders of PokerStars are long gone… The big question is whether the PokerStars name is a tainted asset.”

Finally, Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez summed up the arguments from the bill’s opposition, calling for a clear distinction of what happens if horse racing isn’t an activity California engages in down the road, clear language that the bill only applies to iPoker and not iGaming in general, and said that bad actor language still needs to be discussed.

In the end, the bill passed via a roll call vote.


Ready to put your skills on the line? You can practice as much as you need on the free online poker tables at Cafrino and get all the practice you need while winning real cash. Good luck!

California Assemblyman Talks Online Poker

Few legislators have been more involved in the effort to legalize online poker in the state of California than State Assemblyman Mike Gatto: The issue has been one of interest for him since the first online poker bill was introduced in California in 2008.

Late last year, he prefiled his own online poker bill (AB 9), and though progress has stalled until the state legislature reconvenes on January 4, he fully expects to take up the issue again in the new year.

California has the potential to be the biggest online poker market in the US, but attempts to pass legislation have met resistance on two major topics: Bad actors and the inclusion of the horse racing industry as potential licensees.

Poker Industry PRO was granted the opportunity to ask the Assemblyman, who is at the forefront of efforts to pass online poker legislation in California, his opinions on some controversial topics. Here are just a few of the questions he addressed.

Do you think regulating online poker in California is in the best interest of its citizens?

It is no secret that there are many Californians who are playing poker online, on unregulated, off-shore sites. That is money that’s leaving the country. When players do so, they also face uncertainties with regard to such things as the security of their deposits, or whether they will be paid when they wish to cash out winnings.

If the state can provide a well-regulated market, there is no doubt players will repatriate their funds to legal operators, who will in turn provide tax revenue to the state.

Do you believe that including language to exclude “bad actors” in the law itself serves the people of California better than allowing the state gaming regulators to decide the conditions that potential licensees must meet in order to be deemed suitable?

I’ve tried to craft a bill that will give an opportunity for groups to make a compelling case as to whether or not they should have access to the California market. The Legislature should provide clear guidance to the Executive Branch regulators as to what individuals and entities should qualify for licenses.

Any business that is allowed by the state to make financial transactions such as those that are involved with online gaming, should be held to the highest standard possible to assure their integrity for the sake of their customers.

As the regulation of online poker spreads around the globe, lawmakers and regulators are faced with the issue of consumers continuing to utilize unlicensed online poker sites. What do you think are some of the most effective methods for deterring players from patronizing black-market sites? Do you think assessing fines to players caught using unauthorized sites is appropriate?

Unfortunately there is little a state government can do to regulate the Internet. I would like to see the federal government put pressure on the worst actors around the globe.

On the state level, prosecutions and regulatory actions, where appropriate, might serve as a deterrent. The best deterrent though is a safer marketplace.

What would you say to your constituents who are frustrated with the lack of progress of online poker legislation in California over the past several years?

I share their frustration.


Think what you have what it takes to win free cash? Test our your poker skills at Cafrino, the completely free and legal online poker!

Is California Running Out Of Time For Online Poker?

With Stakeholders Still At Odds, California Legislature Running Out Of Time For Online Poker

Thanks to a late push from a super-coalition of stakeholders, the California legislature continues to contemplate online poker legalization.

However, with several issues still to be ironed out, and just a couple of weeks remaining on the legislative calendar, legislators are running increasingly short on time.

The legislature returned from its month-long summer recess on August 17 and got right back to work, but it will only have until September 11 to tie up any loose ends, and pass legislation before adjourning for the remainder of the year. So on top of the tertiary issue of iPoker, the California legislature will also be working on bills on a multitude of issues.

California is facing some serious problems, which makes the idea of the legislature fighting over online poker seem out of touch with the state’s residents. On top of a debilitating drought and wild fires, the legislature has a number of serious fiscal issues to hash out, including the state’s significant debt.

Time is even more precious when you consider fiscal bills (which online poker regulation would fall into) must pass committee by August 28. This short timeframe makes it unlikely a completed bill such as Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s AB 167 will be considered, which leaves Assemblyman Adam Gray’s shell bill, AB 431, as the state’s lone hope.

On the plus side, a new coalition has formed and it is currently engaged in a full court press to jam an online poker bill through in 2015.

The new super-coalition

Several of the state’s varied factions have set aside their small differences to form a super-coalition of the willing.

Morongo/PokerStars, horseracing and labor, and a tribal coalition consisting of Rincon, Pala, and United Auburn have reportedly been pushing the legislature to muster up the will to vote on an online poker bill – something we hinted at several months ago.

The problem is, they are opposed by a politically powerful group of tribes, and an online poker bill needs a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature to pass.

The Pechanga coalition

Standing in opposition to the new super-coalition is a coalition of nine tribes spearheaded by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

This tribal coalition has been deemed obstructionist by the other other factions, as it has been steadfast in its opposition to PokerStars or horseracing tracks being able to apply for a license.

Most analysts and pundits feel it will take a near-consensus to pass an online poker bill in California, and with the Pechanga coalition unwavering on these issues a consensus will not be reached.

Smaller issues still need to be ironed out

There are also several other smaller, but still consequential problems that need to be ironed out on top of the PokerStars and horseracing issues.

How the regulatory structure will be divvied out between the state and tribal regulators is just one of these ancillary issues.

Another reason an iPoker bill will likely fail…

A broader problem with Gray’s bill is it would need to be expanded. There are a lot of i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed in AB 431.

On the other hand, if Gray simply adopts the language of AB 167, or acquiesces to the Morongo/PokerStars/Racing/RAP super-coalition’s demands, it could have a very negative impact on online poker efforts in 2016 as it would create an adversary in the Pechanga coalition.

This estrangement would likely be on full display if Gray were inclined to revisit the issue next year.

Essentially, if Gray gives in to the demands of the super-coalition, he will alienate the Pechanga coalition, which would make reaching a consensus next year all the more difficult.


As if the state didn’t have enough barriers to overcome, time is now working against online poker in California as well.


Think what you have what it takes to win free cash? Test our your poker skills at Cafrino, the completely free and legal online poker!