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California Poker Bill Passes Second Procedural Stage

Posted on by Tim Hernandez

CaliforniaThe California State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee yesterday passed Adam Gray´s shell bill after Republican committee members abstained from voting.

There was an interesting development in the prospects (or lack of prospects) for Californian online poker yesterday, when the Republican representatives on the Appropriations Committee abstained from voting on Adam Gray´s AB 431 – allowing it to pass its second procedural stage despite still lacking any content.

At present, the reason for the abstention is a matter for speculation. Possibly Republican committee members could not bring themselves to vote on a much watered-down proposal declaring the “intent” to authorize Internet poker in California

Or maybe there is a more sinister reason for the Republicans non-participation in the vote – one which could ultimately scupper any realistic hopes for online poker legislation in California for the foreseeable future.

Tribal Plea to Vote against AB 431

Immediately prior to the Appropriations Committee hearing, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and eight other tribes released a statement changing their position from “neutral” to “against” the passage of AB 431.

The tribal chairmen claimed in their statement that they had been given assurances that a consensus of opinion would be sought over issues dividing the stakeholders before the Bill was moved forward, and these assurances have been ignored.

Stating that there are other mechanisms in place to meet the Bill´s procedural deadlines, the tribal chairmen urged Appropriations Committee not to pass AB 431 until disagreements over the eligibility for licensure had been resolved.

Has There Been a Shift in the Political Landscape?

Although the Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee chose to ignore the statement by the tribes opposed to the passage of AB 431, the Republican members may well have abstained to show their support for the tribes.

Historically, Indian tribes in California have been financial supporters of the Democratic Party after accusing the Republicans of not listening to their needs in the 1990s. With the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians particularly opposed to an expansion of gambling in California, their position with regard to online poker in California (“no bill is better than a bad bill”) is moving closer to that of the Republican´s primary financial backer – Sheldon Adelson.

It is not inconceivable that Republican Assemblymen in California are trying to garner the favor of the most powerful tribes in California by forming an alliance to prevent the passage of a Bill that the Pechanga Tribe is opposed to. It is significant that Democrats have 35% of the voting share in the State Assembly – just enough to prevent the two-thirds majority required for AB 431 to become law in whatever format it is presented to the Assembly floor.

What Happens Next to AB 431?

Adam Gray´s (lack of) proposals for online poker in California will now be temporarily shelved until two Governmental Organization Committee hearings have taken place. These are scheduled for 24th June and 7th August, and will consist of an informational hearing about how well prepared California is to regulate online poker and a discussion about two other online poker proposals – Mike Gatto´s AB 9 and Reggie Jones-Sawyer´s AB 167.

Although pro-regulation stakeholders and the Poker Players Alliance expressed their delight at the passage of AB 431 through the Appropriations Committee, there is still a massive divide to bridge if any of the proposals for online poker are to be debated on the floor of the State Assembly. If the speculation about a shift in the political landscape proves to be correct, that divide just got a hell of a lot wider!

One comment on “California Poker Bill Passes Second Procedural Stage”

  1. […] a second procedural stage in May, but only after Republican members of the Appropriations Committee abstained from voting. Subsequent hearings to pad out the content of AB431 were cancelled due to remaining divisions […]

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