The latest changes made to California’s online poker legislation bill AB 2863 by Assemblyman Adam Gray, the sponsor of the bill would result in PokerStars facing a five- year ban on entering the California market.
A coalition led by PokerStars which comprises the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Commerce Casino, Bicycle Casino and two tribal groups have issued a statement opposing the changes. The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a popular poker lobbying group has also issued a statement criticising the amendment and thrown its support behind PokerStars.
Gray has proposed the ban as a compromise in response to demands made by the powerful Californian tribal coalition led by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. The tribal coalition had demanded that the bad actor provision in the bill ban all companies that had continued operations after the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was implemented.
PokerStars which is currently the world’s largest online poker site controlling more than 70 percent of the global online poker market had continued to offer its services to Americans despite the passage of the law, thus violating it. According to the tribes, the company must not be allowed to benefit from the assets it built by operating during this time when other companies had had to cease operations.
PokerStars entered into an agreement with the federal government subsequently without acknowledging any wrongdoing. This agreement allowed the company to get a license earlier this year to operate in New Jersey.
With the current legislative session in California close to its end, the bill might be go to vote this week itself. Once cleared by the Assembly, the bill would then move to the Senate for final approval. In an earlier version of the bill, Gray had proposed a provision that issued a fine of $20 million for bad actors like PokerStars but the tribe termed it as insufficient.
The PPA has said that a deeper examination of the new provisions in the bill regarding the ban actually state that the ban will not be just for five years but for a lifetime.
In a statement, John Pappas PPA Executive Director said,
We are deeply disappointed that Chairman Adam Gray has chosen to play politics at the behest of special interests. The proposed amendments threaten to doom the iPoker legislation for which we and our members have advocated for years
The group has also said that the new provisions make it less likely for the bill to be passed due to serious constitutional flaws in it. The online poker legislation has been in discussion for years now but the dispute around the suitability provisions have resulted in considerable delay.