California Senator May be prepared to accept a Watered-Down Poker Bill

Currently there are 3 online gambling bills on the table in the California General Assembly. These include Lou Correa’s bill SB 678, “Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013”; Roderick Wright’s SB 51 ”Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013″; and the draft bill from the California

Currently there are 3 online gambling bills on the table in the California General Assembly. These include Lou Correa’s bill SB 678, “Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013”; Roderick Wright’s SB 51 ”Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013″; and the draft bill from the California Tribes which OSGA highlighted in a previous article.  All 3 bills looked to have promise at some point during the year but each lost momentum and got bogged down in committee due to the usual infighting between the tribes, poker rooms and horse tracks. With the Assembly scheduled to shut down for the year on September 6th everyone in the industry just accepted that the bills were all but dead until next year when the Assembly reconvened.

That belief may have been somewhat thwarted if reported rumors are true and Lou Correa has reclassified SB 678 as an “urgency” bill. While it may sound somewhat bizarre, what the reclassification does is effectively give leeway to the committee and all interested parties to strike down any part of the bill they don’t like and votes will be done on the remnants. Ironically that is somewhat similar to what happened with the UIGEA.  As many will recall when John Kyl introduced his first online gambling bill in 1997 the aim was to effectively make internet gambling a federal crime punishable with jail time for both bettors and operators. Changes kept being made to the bill by other politicians for several reasons and eventually it passed in 2006 as a watered down version of the original bill. It became even less meaningful when the regulations were written for it and the banks were let off the hook if they allowed illegal transactions to go through.

So under the new “urgency” classification the tribes can cross out what they don’t like from SB 678, the horse racing industry can strike out what they don’t like and the legislators can strike out what they find unfavorable. As long as something meaningful is left that would allow for the introduction of online poker in California that bill would be voted on. But the “urgency” classification also gives the bill more strength than it would have had previously because under that provision it must be passed by 2/3 of the House and Senate and if it does so then it cannot be vetoed by the Governor. Hence if it passes with a 2/3 vote in both houses it immediately becomes a law which apparently is legal per California’s constitution.

If it proves true, then Correa would clearly be making this move because he and other legislators in the state are feeling pressure from the fact that Nevada already has an online poker site running and Delaware, New Jersey and numerous other states aren’t far behind. Thus they can only conclude that a watered-down bill is better than none.

I spoke to one of my contacts – a gambling law expert in California – to ask if he believed there was any way this bill could actually get the passed in the short time left before the Assembly is dismissed and whether he had ever witnessed anything like this before.  He responded that he hadn’t heard about Correa’s motion but was happy to respond to my question if indeed the rumors are true and Correa has changed the bill to an urgency classification.

“It’s unique and has never been tried before (using the urgency provision) as far as I know but it’s clever. What Correa will have done is thrown the ball in the courts of all interested parties and told them to take out what they don’t like so we can get this bill off the ground. There’s really no reason for the tribes and racing people not to take that initiative and if they refuse the Assembly can quickly ascertain who the trouble makers are and address them separately. Can it pass by early September? I don’t know but with all the strike-outs the bill would be pretty concise so there really wouldn’t be a whole lot to hold it up.”

If Correa has made this initiative and if indeed it works, then all parties in California should be commended for not allowing another year to pass without a resolution once and for all.

Contact Hartley via email at Hartley[at]osga[dot]com.

Read insights from Hartley Henderson every week here at OSGA and check out more from Hartley’s RUMOR MILL!

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