A revised online poker bill is expected to be presented for a committee hearing in California by the end of April with a view to move it through to the next stage of the legislative process.
Steve Stallings, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association confirmed that the legislation introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray earlier this year was being advanced. Stallings said that this forward movement was taking place despite concerns arising from the recent insider trading allegations leveled against David Baazov, the Chairman of Amaya Gaming Corp, the parent company of PokerStars.
PokerStars is part of an online poker coalition pushing for the legalization of online poker. The coalition is made up of other interested parties such as the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Commerce Casino, the Bicycle Casino , the United Auburn Indian Community and Hawaiian Gardens Casino.
The bad actor provision of the bill, which seeks to blacklist operators involved in illegal gaming has become irrelevant after PokerStars received approval from New Jersey authorities last year to operate in the state. However the charges against Baazov have impacted these efforts.
According to Stallings, it made things difficult. In a statement, Stallings said
It does raise if not red flags, caution flags. It does raise issues of corporate governance.
Regardless, he said that Californian tribes were ready to proceed and face competition in the space. Gray had introduced a similar bill last year as well which was passed by the committee. This was the first time an online poker bill was voted upon after six years of efforts but it stalled thereafter and was subsequently set aside post September. The coalition partners are trying to move faster this year.
California is the largest market for tribal gaming, with gaming revenue reaching $7.3 billion in 2014, representing 25 percent of the entire country’s tribal gaming market. Stallings has said that the bill was vital for enabling the revival of online poker as a viable business. But he added that developments such as insider trading charges hurt the process.
The online poker market in California has been estimated to be $400 million. Offline, there are around 60 tribal casinos and close to 100 facilities offering poker. Despite this, Stallings believes that 6-10 online poker operators could easily be supported given the market potential.
The proposed bill would limit players to those above the age of 21 years and only permit residents of the state. The bill will also recompense racing tracks to the extent of $60 million annually through revenue sharing in exchange for them opting out of the industry.