california-pokerchipsIn America, the online poker world and the Federal Government have had a strained relationship, to say the least. With the resurgence in interest in the game, however, has come renewed efforts by PokerStars to bring their games back to the United States. After successfully entering the New Jersey market for the first time since Black Friday, they may now be set to have another win as, sources say, the California Assembly Governmental Organization Committee has scheduled an informational hearing for April 20 on the most recent bill that would legalize and regulate online poker in the state.

The bill in question is AB 2863, sponsored by Assemblymen Adam Gray and Reggie Jones-Sawyer. It has been championed by the PokerStars coalition and the United Auburn Indian Community. Support from the tribal communities overall has been tenuous at times, but it appears that the coalition’s size might be growing.

The bill covers a lot of ground without going into the nuts and bolts of how the regulation would work. It does lay a foundation for what would be expected, however:

  • The operators of sites will be federally recognized California Indian tribes that have authorized cardrooms and/or NIGC facility licenses.
  • Companies acting as service providers will have to cover costs for investigating their suitability. (This could be a concern for PokerStars, if recent events or past actions affect their chances.)
  • No games of chance, or games with a house edge, will be allowed. This includes All-In tournaments for poker as well, since there is little skill in relation to the amount of luck involved.
  • Licenses will be able to share player pools, improving traffic.
  • Interestingly, the bill would make it a felony to play on unlicensed poker sites, something related to traditional, never used, laws in place. With regulation in place, it could become something that is enforced, although there is no way of knowing at present.
  • Player funds will be kept separate from operational funds. There will be no further Full Tilt problems if regulated sites are allowed in to California.

There are few specifics beyond these, although if the bill moves forward a regulatory committee would be set up that will decide exactly how the process will work. If the bill sees a vote, it will be at least 270 days before operators are allowed to open. This will give the committee ample time to have rules in place.

What remains to be seen, however, is the impact that the recent allegations against Amaya CEO David Baazov will have. PokerStars has already run into trouble due to the “bad actor” clauses in some online poker bills, effectively banning providers that previously serviced the United States illegally. While the current bill does not include this clause, the future of PokerStars in particular is unclear in the state.

Should the bill move forward, it will be only the second time in six years that regulated online poker has been voted on in California. Stay tuned for updates if, and when, the hearing takes place and the coalition makes headway. Of the states with current bills being discussed, California may be the closest to regulation.