The Assembly Governmental Organization Committee voted unanimously this week in favor of advancing AB 431. The positive vote marks the first time that the legislature has moved a digital gambling bill towards a floor vote that could allow widespread sponsorship by Native American casinos, horse tracks and poker of online gambling.
With roughly 160 casinos and card rooms combined, 6 horse tracks and more than 21,000 lottery retail locations, California’s gambling industry generates more revenue than just about any state in the country.
There are no written laws in the State of California that prohibit, ban, or regulate online gambling. This means that online gambling in California is not a crime and residents cannot be arrested or prosecuted for gambling online. The only requirement related in California is the age of the participant. Residents must be 18 years old to play the lottery and 21 years old to play in online casinos, sportsbooks, poker rooms, and bingo halls.
The state of California has tried to pass laws several times that would allow the Legislature to regulate online gambling. The closest effort before this week was AB 678, the “Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013.” But the past legislative efforts have attempted to keep tribal interests out of the online game altogether, something that obviously didn’t fly amongst Native Americans.
A coalition of seven tribes led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians of Temecula in March announced they were taking a hard line against “i-Poker legislation” in California that would license horse racing associations. The tribes expressed concerns that online gambling would erode the tribes’ constitutionally guaranteed exclusivity to engage in casino gambling, which in California is used to fund government programs.
Prior to the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee hearing, several groups were registered as opposed to AB 431. But following some last minute amendments that are still not available in published form, the majority of those groups–including Pechanga and Agua Caliente–switched their stance from opposed to neutral. The move clears the way for what looks like a vote on both Legislature floors next month.
Steve “Chops” Preiss, VP, Business Development, BLUFF told the Online Poker Report, “With AB 431 advancing through GO, the framework is at least in place for continued progress in bringing regulated online poker to California this year.” He added that, “Outstanding concerns such as track participation still need to be resolved, but today is clearly a win.”