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.