California is a huge market for regulated online poker and is seen as a game-changer if and when the game is allowed back – could 2015 be the year it happens?
Towards the end of 2014, the general consensus was that only one state would move to regulate online poker in 2015 – California. Several weeks ago, California assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced an online poker bill for consideration. Known as the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015, the bill seeks to authorize intrastate internet poker for all legal age players in California. Many Native American tribes in California have been at loggerheads with one another regarding the language used in a spate of recent poker bills. One tribe defied California legislation and briefly launched its own online poker room, citing tribal sovereignty (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) in its decision to do so. However the US District Court for the Southern District of California moved swiftly to impose a restraining order against the Lipay Nation of Santa Ysabel to California for offering online gaming to residents outside of its tribal jurisdiction.
New amendments to Gatto’s poker bill
One of the features of Mike Gatto’s poker bill required that all potential poker registrants apply in-person at land-based poker rooms, and casinos to register for online poker. This proved unpopular with poker players and the Poker Players Alliance (PPA). For his part, Gatto believes that the requirement was necessary to validate that only legal age poker players in California would be signing up to play at online poker rooms. However this has now been stricken from the bill and is now an optional component. Defending his move, Gatto stressed that online poker rooms in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware use cutting-edge technology to register and validate the identities of patrons. Fraud prevention mechanisms in those states are secure, reliable and operational. The in-person requirement was not without its merits however; players would be required to make an initial deposit at a California-based cardroom or casino, thereby generating foot traffic for those land-based establishments.
The state of online poker in California
Opponents of the in-person requirement believe that it would otherwise have hindered the registration process by imposing more hurdles for players to navigate through. Other terms in the bill include making it a criminal action for anyone to illegally provide real-money poker games in California. The 2014 poker bill introduced by Reginald Jones Sawyer will likely be followed up by another bill in the coming months. All of these initiatives could be jeopardized by the current corruption scandal brewing with a former California gaming official, Robert Lytle. The burgeoning $119 million Casino M8trix skimming investigation has many concerned that Lytle violated the ‘cooling off period’ and was engaged in hampering investigations against Casino M8trix.
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