It appears that the rumors of a Pechanga-PokerStars alliance were false. According to comments made by the Pechanga during GiGse earlier this week, the tribe not only has not entered into any type of partnership but their stances regarding bad actors and racetrack participation have not changed in the slightest. For weeks there have been rumors that the coalition led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians had softened their stance on bad actors and was working on forming a partnership with PokerStars to possible hasten the online poker legislation. Pechanga Still Does Not Support PokerStars in CA GiGse 2015 was held earlier this week at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, CA. Internet gaming’s elite were in attendance to discuss all matters related to iGaming, including online poker legislation in California. The California Panel on Tuesday proved to be quite informative but also showed that little progress has been made towards iPoker legislation in the state. This was most evident by the testimony given by Mark Macarro, Tribal Chairman for the Pechanga. Macarro made it clear that the Pechanga do not support any bill that would allow PokerStars into the state. He followed this up stating that the blogs and rumors of a partnership with PokerStars were untrue, stating, “unequivocally that Pechanga has never suggested an alliance with PokerStars to get a bill done. In addition, they still do not support the inclusion of either PokerStars or state racetracks. Macarro continued to contend that their position on racetracks comes from their belief that online poker is an expansion of gambling. The state constitution forbids any expansion of gambling by racetracks and such measures have been defeated in the past. Pechanga “Support” Online Poker But on Their Terms Pechanga made it clear that they support online poker in the state, but it must be on their terms. This means an online poker market devoid of racetracks and of PokerStars. Macarro stated that the coalition has no intention of changing their view on PokerStars or bad actors. Macarro also made an interesting point to certain analysts that have questioned whether the Pechanga actually wanted online poker in the state. He pointed out that if the Pechanga were opposed to online poker, they would have aligned with Sheldon Adelson rather than stand their ground on bad actors and racetracks. Instead, they are looking for “the right fit” for their concerns. The Pechanga have also been discussing their own potential solution to the issues. Macarro shared that they have recently discussed a united coalition of tribes that could move forward iPoker legislation without racetracks. Of course, if such a coalition were to push through a bill without addressing racetrack concerns, Governor Jerry Brown has promised to veto the bill. While other stakeholders expressed hope that a compromise can be reached in this process, it appears unlikely that one will be made this year. The Poker Players Alliance tweeted the following regarding what they heard during the CA Panel at GiGse 2015: As long as the Pechanga continue to hold fast to their opposition of bad actors and racetrack participation, online poker legislation in the state will stall. Some are now saying that 2020 is the earliest we can expect online poker in the state. Photo credit: Previous Post Next Post About James Guill Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

After weeks of inactivity, we finally have some movement on the California iPoker legislative front. On Wednesday, Online Poker Report revealed that joint hearings were in the works regarding internet poker regulation in the state. On Thursday, Chris Krafcik of Gambling Compliance Inc. revealed the dates of those dates via Twitter: The first hearing, Overview of Gambling in California – Legality, Authorization and Regulation, will be held on May 20 and has a 1:30 pm PDT start time. This will be followed up with a hearing on June 24 titled The Legality of Internet Poker – How Prepared is California to Regulate It? This hearing also has a 1:30 pm PDT start time. Agenda on Hearings Unclear At present, all we know is that hearings will be taking place but the purpose of these hearings is uncertain. Furthermore, little is known regarding who will testify at these hearings. It can be assumed that representatives from major stakeholders as well as anti-iPoker lobbyists will testify at one or both hearings. The second hearing poses a question that many in the United States are wondering at this point. Is California prepared to regulate online poker? Looking at the constant bickering between stakeholders, one has to wonder if these hearings will do little more than shine a brighter light on the issues currently being debated. Did Pennsylvania Influence California to Hold Hearings? In recent weeks, Pennsylvania has been making huge strides towards online gambling regulation. After holding hearings with casino executives in March, the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee held their first iGaming hearing on Thursday. This hearing was seen as mainly positive with testimony covering topics including gaming security, geolocation, regulation and even how many jobs iGaming in PA would create. Meanwhile, California has largely been moot outside of rumors and speculation. Pennsylvania’s push to legalize the game may have been an influencing factor forcing lawmakers in California to get the ball rolling on hearings. Unfortunately, there are too many issues currently needing to be ironed out to believe that California will be able to legalize iPoker in 2015. Tribes have yet to reach any type of a consensus regarding iPoker and bad actors. The rumored partnership between the Pechanga and PokerStars doesn’t look to have gone anywhere and some have even claimed that this was a false rumor. Then there is the matter of the horse racing industry. Pechanga is against allowing horse racetracks from participating despite the belief by many that iPoker cannot move forward without their involvement. Furthermore, Governor Jerry Brown has stated that he would veto any iPoker bill that didn’t address the horse racing industry in some fashion. Note that he said address the industry. It doesn’t necessarily mean that racetracks have to be licensed, but some type of arrangement has to be made. One proposed arrangement was to provide revenue sharing to racetracks, a proposal that the horse racing industry is presently against. Granted, the first hearing is a month away and this leaves parties time to possibly work towards a compromise. If California wants to legalize iPoker in 2015, parties will have to move swiftly in order to achieve this goal. Otherwise, they may have to pull a page out of the Chicago Cubs playbook and “wait until next year.” Previous Post Next Post California|online poker legalization|pokerstars About James Guill Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

In a stunning turn of events, the Pechanga coalition is considering a possible partnership with – we hope you’re seated – PokerStars (we double-checked to make sure this wasn’t an April Fool’s prank). On Saturday, Dave Palermo with Online Poker Report revealed the potential partnership between PokerStars and the most powerful group in California online poker. According to the report, tribal leaders met on Tuesday in San Diego and floated the possibility of an alliance between PokerStars card room and California Indian tribes. If this partnership becomes a reality, this would be the biggest step forward towards online poker legislation in California to date. Partnership Would Still Leave Racetracks on Outside Looking In The partnership was first floated last week during the National Indian Gaming Association convention. According to tribal leaders in attendance at the conference, the Pechanga are suggesting the coalition as a way to bypass the horse racing industry and move forward with legislation. The Pechanga is willing to soften their stances on bad actors and tainted assets in order to try to form a consensus among tribes that will allow online poker for tribes and state card room. They still want horse racetracks excluded. It is unclear whether a consensus can be reached regarding racetracks. Some tribes still believe that racetracks should be allowed to offer online poker while some believe that the tribes and card rooms could provide revenue sharing with the tracks over allowing them to run sites. Coalition May be Forced to Address Track Issue The horse racing industry in California has long contended that they deserve a spot in legalized iPoker in the state. There is also little chance that they would accept a revenue sharing deal as it could be removed by the legislature at whim. Last year, racing officials were quoted as saying that they would tie up legislation in court if it did not include racetracks. In addition, Governor Jerry Brown has also spoken out against any legislation that doesn’t include the horse racing industry. Legislators and stakeholders do not want either scenario. Legal challenges to this bill could delay iPoker regulation by years. It is unlikely that legislators would push a bill that is likely to be vetoed, so it appears that further negotiation on the issue of racetracks is needed. A New Beginning or Wishful Thinking? It is natural to view this recent news with a bit of skepticism based on everything that has happened, or rather what hasn’t happened, in recent years. The question now is why the Pechanga are willing to back down from one of their traditional stances. Simply stated, forces in and outside of the state are working against them. In California, their coalition is really the only group with any political clout that is opposing PokerStars. Furthermore, their position was easier to assume when it was unclear whether the company would be allowed back in New Jersey. Last week, Amaya announced that they expect to be operational in New Jersey by the end of Quarter 3 of 2015. This is the first time a company official has set a timeline, making it much more likely that it’s going to happen this time. Pechanga sees the writing on the wall and they see the potential of online gambling. For now, they will continue to posture against horse racing but if a consensus can be made on online poker involving PokerStars, odds are that the horse racing issue will be addressed with great swiftness. If this partnership is finalized, expect significant movement to be made on this bill prior to PokerStars launching in September. Previous Post Next Post online poker legalization|pechanga|pokerstars About James Guill Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

Online poker legislation in California is on the brink of stalling out yet again following a stern letter addressed by the Pechanga coalition to Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. The letter addresses AB 167, the online poker bill currently sponsored by Jones-Sawyer. It tries to paint the bill as a flawed piece of legislation and the coalition reiterated their opposition to the two main issues that have stalled legislation in the last three years. Beating a Horse that Will Not Die The long winded letter to Jones-Sawyer addressed the two issues that the Pechanga have been championing for years. The first is their opposition to horse racetracks being permitted to participate in legalized online poker. They believe that online poker represents an “expansion of gambling” on the part of the racetracks and claim that citizens have already voted against this measure. Next, they turn their attention to bad actors and tainted assets. The main target of course is Amaya and PokerStars. PokerStars is teamed with a coalition headed by the Morongo Tribe and three of the state’s largest card rooms. As always, the issue is PokerStars’ continued operations in the United States following the passage of the UIGEA. The Pechanga support a bad actor clause that would ban their participation. To further this desire, they also want to ban companies such as Amaya that have purchased assets from companies that operated after the passage of the UIGEA. Amaya bought PokerStars last year and are trying to bring them into the U.S. Sadly, this is not a new issue. Thomas Adams of put together an inforgraphic on the back-story of online poker legislation in California dating back to 2009. You will notice the dissolution of California Online Poker Association back in 2012 due to the inability of tribes to reach a consensus on the game. Continued Stubbornness Slowly Killing Momentum in 2015 Heading into the New Year, many thought that this would finally be the year online poker would be passed in California. After what was viewed as significant progress in 2014 and the softening of views by some on the bad actor clause, the outlook was positive. Unfortunately, the Pechanga have proven to be a tough adversary to persuade and some already view 2015 as a lost cause. One of those with such a view is AB 9 sponsor Assemblyman Mike Gatto. Earlier this month he revealed that he thought online poker had a 50-50 shot at passing in 2015. Now he believes that the odds of it passing are 35% by 2016. This pessimism appears to be a growing trend as an anonymous state official recently told that a bill would not be possible without the support of the Pechanga. The Pechanga have claimed in the past that they prefer to abandon the issue of online poker rather than compromise their principles regarding bad actors and racetracks. So far, they are sticking to their guns, and it is delaying legislation that could help the state. A different approach is needed to resolve this, but does one exist that would satisfy most major stakeholders? Previous Post Next Post amaya|California Online Poker|Mike Gatto|morongo|pechanga|pokerstars About James Guill Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

The Aria Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is taking a rather unique approach to poker tournaments, foregoing the massive tournament series that culminate with a Main Event of some sort in favor of a singular, big-buy-in event. Aria hosted two $100k buy-in event last year (one in July and another in September) that managed to pull in 30 and 22 entries respectively, and this time around their upping the stakes, as the casino’s latest effort is a massive $500k buy-in tournament with an expected $25 million prize-pool. This isn’t just another High-Roller event either, the Aria has come up with a unique name, the 2015 Super High Roller Poker Bowl (the winner will receive a Championship Ring), and is marketing it as a poker tournament you want to see, a destination event, not as a poker tournament you necessarily want to play in. A $500k buy-in, with a first place prize approaching $10 million is enough to pique any poker fan’s curiosity, but Aria is taking this a step further and taking the event from mere curiosity to spectator sport – a ticket anyone would like to have. The Contest Aria and Poker Central have teamed up to create a prize package for the tournament, but it’s not your typical “win a seat” prize-package, this is a win a trip to see the final table package. “You are invited to enter to win the ultimate high roller vacation for you and a friend at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Welcome to VIP status. The hotel, the flights, the front row seats to the final table, and $5,000 cash to help you Get Lucky™. They’re all on us.” The complete contest rules can be found here. Foregoing the Tournament Series Another key, is this is not a high-roller tournament that is part of a larger tournament series; this is a standalone event. The $500k tournament will take place from July 2nd through the 4th, and will be preceded by the Super High Roller Cash Game on June 30th and July 1st, and a Celebrity High Roller Shootout June 27th and 28th. This not only focuses the spotlight on the stakes and the big name players that will be in attendance, it also is eliminates the need for the casino to set aside a large area to accommodate thousands of players and their rails. Why Aria Can Pull It Off Not only has the Aria proven than can host a successful standalone high-roller tournament, but I’ve visited many poker rooms across the globe and I can tell you that the Aria is not only one of my favorites, it’s also one of the best run and has a terrific atmosphere. The entire staff is top notch; both friendly, accommodating, and knowledgeable. They have rules but they are also able to use common sense and judgment when needed. And it’s these qualities that have allowed Aria to build up so much goodwill among professional poker players. For all these reasons the Aria is simply the right place for such an event, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the website already lists 33 entrants, and it’s essentially a who’s who in poker. A testament to the goodwill and standing the Aria poker room has built up within the poker community. Aria is also marketing the entrants, with a website showing the entire list of entrants (including pictures and biographies for each), which currently includes Phil Hellmuth, Tom Dwan, Daniel Cates, Doug Polk, Antonio Esfandiari, and Phil Ivey. How Big Could It Get? The event is still several months away, and since the tournament will occur during the World Series of Poker (which doesn’t have a $1,000,000 buy-in Big One for One Drop tournament on the schedule this year) I expect the number of entrants to continue to rise. To reach their estimated prize-pool they would need 50 players, a number I think they can achieve. However, if they can accomplish what One Drop did in 2012, and attract a number of rich businessmen, we might see a lot of tournament specialists selling action to try to grab a seat at one of the tables. If that occurs, the number of entrants could easily eclipse 50. Previous Post Next Post About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

Will a third time prove to be the charm in California? This past week, a third California online poker bill was introduced by two legislators with a significant background in state gaming issues. One Thursday, Assemblyman Adam Gray and State Senator Isadore Hall filed companion bills AB 431 and SB 278, bills they hope will finally achieve a goal set by lawmakers over five years ago. These bills are currently shells only, lacking any real details but both sponsors aim to make the bills the final destination for California iPoker legislation. The sponsors laid out their intentions for the bill in a joint press release. As stated in the release, “The issue of iPoker in California has historically been divisive; dealing legislators, the governor and the public a folding hand. It is time to work together, stop bluffing and take control of this issue. Our bills do not create winners and losers. “Our bills do not take one entity’s side over another. Our bills will give the Legislature, the Governor, tribal governments, other gaming entities, technology providers and the public an opportunity to have an open, honest and thorough debate on this issue.” What Advantages Does This Bill Have Over the Others Filed On the surface, the filing of this bills appears to be a bit of overkill due to the fact that AB 9 and AB 167 already seem to address most issues. However, both bills tend to go to the extreme favoring one side or another. This new bill looks to bridge the gap and make a comprehensive piece of legislation that satisfied all stakeholders. In addition, there are a couple other things working in favor of this bill. First, Senator Hall and Assemblyman Gray are the heads of their respective Governmental Organizational (GO) committees, making them the most qualified among those currently pursuing iPoker legislation. Their understanding of the California gaming market will uniquely position them to work with interested stakeholders. Next, sentiments regarding the bad actor clause and PokerStars’ involvement in California have significantly softened in recent weeks. The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, Pala Band of Mission Indians, and United Auburn Indian Community have all recently changed their stance on the bad actor clause and now support PokerStars coming into California. Furthermore, Caesars Entertainment has also reversed their position and now welcomes the possibility of PokerStars operating in the United States. One can also assume that bwin.Party also approve of PokerStars’ involvement since they are partnered with the aforementioned tribes. Bill Could Go to the Wire or Possibly Roll Over to 2016 The last thing that anyone wants to hear is that California iPoker legislation will take time, but that appears to be what the lawmakers are saying for this bill. In their statement, they stressed that the bills passage “will not be a rushed process. Any iPoker proposal must put California taxpayers first and must ensure a safe and responsible entertainment option for adults. If done correctly, this legislation could serve as a national model for other states to follow. We think we can do it and we’re all in to move California iPoker forward this legislative session.” As you can see, Gray and Hall have high aspirations for this bill. Knowing this, don’t expect any significant movement towards passage until closer to the end of the legislative session. Should negotiations move slowly, which could be the case when dealing with the Pechanga; this bill may have to be revisited in 2016. Previous Post Next Post online poker legalization About James Guill Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

There is certainly no love lost between tribal casinos and California’s card rooms, but things seem to be coming to a head, and interestingly it has nothing to do with online gambling. Tribal casinos in California have been highly critical of the state’s card rooms of late, accusing them of offering house-banked card games which would violate California laws which prohibit card rooms from having a stake in the games they offer. In other words, California card rooms are not allowed to serve as the house, they may only collect a fee/rake from each hand. Card rooms have disputed this, saying they are operating in accordance with the law and regulations governing them. History of card rooms and non-poker card games Despite this prohibition on house-banked games Card rooms began offering blackjack and other traditionally house-banked games 30 years ago by developing a variation of these games that allows any player to act as the house. Under this variation, each player is offered to act as the dealer in turn, with the house taking a small percentage from each bet made, win or lose, or imposing a collection fee on the bank for each hand played, not on profit or loss. California Gambling Association President Kyle Kirkland explained the process thusly: What the tribes are complaining about is what happens when the players at the table decline to play as the dealer. Kirkland explained that in these situations, “most card rooms have contracted with a third party proposition player who defaults to the role.” And it’s these third-party players that have come under fire. Third-party banks Obviously playing as the dealer is extremely advantageous, but many players still prefer to only play blackjack against the dealer for a variety of reasons, ranging from risk to the vig to comfort. “This so-called player-dealer position has favorable economic advantages compared to the traditional player position,” Kirkland noted. “But many recreational players decline the option because they don’t understand it, don’t want added risk or simply just want to play the games in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed in other jurisdictions.” What happened was savvy players realized they could maximize their potential profit by banking hired players who would always accept the dealer position and cover all wagers not covered by the players in the game. As Fried explained: For a lengthier description of the third-party bank process you can read this older, but excellent 2+2 post on the topic – the thread is from 2009, but picks up once again in 2012 and 2014, offering a more current view of the third-party banks at California card rooms. Any truth to the accusations? Gaming attorney David Fried notes that the “player dealer games have been approved by the Legislature and in several Court of Appeal decisions,” and that the California Bureau “has approved specific player-dealer game rules for Blackjack, Three Card Poker, Pai Gow, Baccarat and other table games.” According to Dave Palermo of Global Gaming Business Magazine, “Tribes contend card rooms are advertising blackjack and baccarat, games prohibited by law, and using TPPPs to skirt regulations requiring that games be banked by players and not the club.” Essentially, tribes are complaining that high stakes table games couldn’t run without these third-party banks. However, a third party bank must be licensed in California, making it very difficult to near impossible for a casino to secretly bank its own games. While a card room cannot back its own games, it’s my understanding that card rooms are able to act as the bank in other card rooms, and in higher stakes games, particularly with bonus bets, it would be extremely unlikely for any individual player to have enough money to act as the bank, which makes the contracted third-party bank the de facto house. What is left unsaid in the tribal accusations is that some tribes are of the opinion that card rooms are perhaps supplying the capitol (or swapping action with other card rooms) for these third-party banks. The most overt accusation of this kind was made by the the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation said in an October letter to the commission and bureau, according to Palermo: “Not only are the card rooms playing illegal banked games, they are effectively house-banked games.” Final thoughts This will likely continue to be a point of contention as tribes try to protect their table game monopoly and card rooms look for new revenue streams in order to compete with the larger tribal casinos. That being said, these allegations seem to be somewhat baseless, and because of the strict regulations on third-party banks (which includes licensing) it’s unlikely these accusations will ever materialize into actual charges or present the proverbial smoking gun that card rooms are banking their own games – which by all indications they are not. Previous Post Next Post About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

In a surprising turn of events, Caesars Entertainment has changed their stance on the bad actor clause as it pertains to PokerStars. Speculation on this change began late last week after a letter was published on that outlined the current position of the Rincon tribe. In that letter, the Rincon tribe recommended an approach that looked at each applicant individually and suggested that companies owning “tainted assets” such as Amaya be evaluated to determine whether those assets would negatively impact California online poker. After the release of this letter, speculation started swirling that Caesars may have softened their stance on bad actor clauses. That speculation was later confirmed by Chris Krafcik of Gambling Compliance via Twitter: Rincon Softens on Uncertain on Use Tainted Assets The new position held by the Rincon, and now Caesars, is a great coup for online poker supporters in California but it is not necessarily a slam-dunk for PokerStars. What this change of heart essentially adds up to is that Caesars is open to Amaya Inc being licensed to operate online poker in California. However, it is still unclear as to whether they support the actual use of the PokerStars client by the company. The Rincon tribe made it clear that bad actors are eliminated once ownership has changed, but they still believe that the “bad assets” should be evaluated. The question now remains how one evaluates the assets acquired by Amaya in determining whether to allow PokerStars to operate. Can the physical client be disqualified because of a prior version operated in the United States? One could argue that the newest client was perfected through operating under the UIGEA. One would almost automatically assume that any client databases would be disqualified since they were obtained under the UIGEA. This means that PokerStars would not be allowed to directly contact former players if they setup shop in California. This argument would likely have the most merit because it would be the easiest to prove. Of course, PokerStars could go the route of creating a new US specific client that is unique from their main client. This would seem a bit redundant but would possibly quell some of the concerns surrounding bad assets. Pechanga and Aqua Caliente Only Hardcore Supporters Left Now that Rincon, and subsequently Caesars, has shifted support away from a hardcore bad actor clause, this leaves only the Pechanga and Aqua Caliente as the major tribes supporting a bad actor clause. While they are holding steadfast in their opposition against PokerStars, one has to wonder how long their resolve can hold. Now could be the time that the Pechanga considers some type of compromise surrounding this issue. While they have claimed that they prefer not passing a law over allowing PokerStars into the state, this stance was taken when a solid number of tribes shared their vision. Now that support is shifting away, Pechanga should consider coming up with a stance that gives them their pound of flesh but gets the legal process moving. Creation of a custom client plus some type of penalty could be one solution. This penalty could be anything from a “fine” to delayed entry into California. Regardless, recent developments give some analysts hope on a law actually progressing in 2015. Progress has been slow but there now appears to be some hope that California residents will be able to play online poker in the near future. The ball is firmly in Pechanga’s court and it is their play. Previous Post Next Post agua caliente|amaya|caesars|online poker legalization|pechanga|pokerstars|rincon About James Guill Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

California isn’t the only state where online gaming bills were introduced in early 2015, but as it stands the Golden State is the only one with an active online gaming bill following the scrapping of Mississippi’s online gaming bill and Washington State’s online poker bill. Neither state was considered a solid candidate for online gaming expansion in 2015, but there was some level of optimism, particularly in Washington State once the bills were introduced into the legislatures. Now iGaming expansion in 2015 will once again fall on California, and perhaps Pennsylvania, although the state has yet to see an online gaming bill introduced during this legislative session. Washington State: Undoing an Overreaching Law Washington State’s only poker efforts were spearheaded by poker advocate Curtis Woodard, who has spent the better part of the last five years embarking on what many considered little more than a fool’s errand. Woodard, and his grassroots lobbying group, the Washington Internet Poker Initiative, have been calling for the state legislature to overturn a 2006 law that made playing online poker a felony in the Evergreen State. Initially they were unable to gain any momentum in the legislature, so Woodard and company adopted a new approach in 2013, attempting to get online poker on the ballot as an initiative, and thereby forcing the legislature to deal with the issue. When the ballot initiative fell short many would have packed it in, having giving it the old college try, but not Woodard. Woodard went back to the drawing board and came up with another bill draft (which would eventually become HB 1114), and in 2015 his proposed legislation finally found a champion in the Washington State legislature in the form of Representative Sherry Appleton. Appleton introduced the bill in January, but was unable to garner enough support for a hearing prior to the legislative deadline, effectively ending any online poker legislative hopes for 2015. Woodard is already looking ahead to next year, and considering his history of stick-to-itiveness and the progress made in 2015, there is a good chance even more progress will be made on this front in 2016. Mississippi: If at first You Don’t Succeed… Since the Department of Justice effectively shutdown the online poker industry in the United States in April of 2011, Mississippi Representative Bobby Moak has been touting the potential of legalized iGaming in the state. Since 2012 Moak has been advocating for the state to expand into online gambling, and in what has become a yearly ritual, Moak introduced a bill to legalize online gambling in Mississippi this year, dubbed The Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act Of 2015. Unfortunately, like all of his previous attempts, Moak’s 2015 online gaming bill was unable to make it out of committee and simply withered and died on the vine. Still, don’t expect Moak to give up. I fully expect Representative Moak to introduce the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2016 next January, particularly if Mississippi’s gaming industry continues to see their revenues dip. As in other locales, Mississippi’s brick & mortar casino industry has been on the decline in recent years (two casinos were shuttered in 2014); this despite an expansion of land-based gaming in 2005 – this expansion was extremely successful as it helped the Gulfport area recover following Hurricane Katrina. Moak sees online gaming as a way to further bolster the land-based gaming industry – something he claims his republican colleagues don’t have the necessary level of concern about. In a recent interview with, Moak brushed aside one of the primary complaints of online gaming expansion: The underwhelming revenue numbers generated in the three states with legalized online gambling, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. In the interview Moak stated, “We all know the numbers weren’t as huge as some people thought they would be, but my position on Internet gaming is just to give the industry options it needs in this changing market.” Moak may have some added ammunition in 2016, as Mississippi commissioned an online gambling study last year – the report has been submitted according to multiple sources – but the findings have yet to be made publicly available. Based on similar reports in other states like Pennsylvania, the findings should paint a positive picture of the potential impact of online gambling in Mississippi, and help bolster Moak’s arguments. Is 2015 THE YEAR for California? With Washington State and Mississippi seeing their attempts at online expansion fall by the wayside the full attention of the industry will immediately turn back to California. While many people will say everything is lined up for something to get done in 2015 (an off-election year) there are still some serious issues to be resolved in California, and as we’ve already seen with AB 9 and AB 167, one group comes out in support while the other vilifies the bill. Previous Post Next Post California|California Online Poker|online poker legalization|online poker regulation About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

California has been trying to expand into online poker since 2009, and this year the California Assembly has two online poker bills to choose from, with the potential for even more to be introduced in the future. Both bills, AB 9 and AB 167, seek to accomplish the same thing, legalizing online poker in California, but there are several clear demarcation points between the two bills. If the California legislature is serious about passing an online poker bill in 2015 they will first have to choose from these two bills, from there they will have to agree to amendments and compromises, and from there they would have to do something they haven’t managed to do up to this point, take a vote on the measure. The basics of AB 9 and AB 167 The first bill, AB 9, was introduced by Mike Gatto back in December, before the legislature even convened for the 2015/2016 legislative session. While Gatto claims the bill was not influenced by any particular interests, it did seem to closely resemble previous efforts backed by the Pechanga coalition, as the bill met with harsh criticism from two groups: Racetracks, and the PokerStars backed coalition that includes the Morongo and San Manuel tribes, and the Bicycle, Commerce, and Hawaiian Gardens casinos. The second bill, AB 167, introduced by Reggie Jones-Sawyer, also received its fair share of criticism, but this time the complaints came from the other side, as the Pechanga led coalition of tribes voiced their opposition to the bills soft stance on “Bad Actors” and inclusion of racetracks. Jones-Sawyer 2015 differed dramatically from Jones-Sawyer 2014 on these two issues, but representing the Los Angeles area it’s not too hard to figure out why Jones-Sawyer would fall on the side of Commerce, the Bike, and the rest of the PokerStars coalition. The bills are similar but different While they aim to do the same thing – both bills possess similar restrictions as to who can play (age and location) and put safeguards in place to protect consumers and insure the integrity of the industry – the two bills are also quite different. The key differences between the two bills has to do with the two biggest issues in the state: Bad Actor clauses and inclusion/exclusion of racetracks. If you’re interested in reading up on these two issues I suggest this column. However, there are several other important differences, as well as an interesting point of compromise. The point of compromise seems to have come about by sheer chance, as AB 9 began with the strange requirement that players must register their accounts in-person at select locations. This provision was something widely scoffed at, and after listening to the online poker industry Mike Gatto amended AB 9, removing the provision, and making in-person registration “optional” instead of mandatory. While required in-person registration (at the home casino/card room, as well as approved satellite locations) is a terrible idea, optional in-person registration is a pretty good idea. It was such a good idea that Jones-Sawyer added it to AB 167, and I’d be surprised if this wasn’t included in all subsequent bills. When it comes to licensing the bills begin to diverge. Both bills lay out a basic framework that would see intrastate online poker adopted by California, with approved entities capable of applying for costly online poker licenses and with a percentage of revenue going to the state. AB 9 calls for a one-time fee of $5 million and a licensing term of 10 years with unspecified taxes paid to the state. On the other hand, AB 167 calls for a $10 million licensing fee for a four year license, and 8.5% of Gross Gaming Revenue set aside for the state. AB 167 is the more inclusive bill (allowing racetracks and any licensed gaming establishment to apply for a license) but the $10 million threshold ($2.5 million per year) might make this a moot point, as the price of entry is simply too high for many potential operators. AB 9’s $4 million licensing fee is far more affordable ($400,000 per year) but the bill is far more restrictive in who can apply for a license, as it restricts licenses to licensed gaming establishments that have been in operation for at least three years. One other notable difference is AB 9 expressly limits online poker to intrastate only, whereas AB 167 leaves the door open for interstate poker down the road. AB 167 is the better starting point In the eyes of most analysts, neither of these bills have any chance to pass as is. Mike Gatto himself has stated, his bill is more of a conversation starter than a finished product. Still, Gatto’s bill, AB 9, may be too cute for its own good, while Jones-Sawyer’s AB 167 seems like more of a finished product, but at the same time still capable of being amended. Previous Post Next Post bike|California|commerce|hawaiian gardens|morongo|online poker regulation|pechanga|pokerstars|san manuel About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.