Online poker has been under discussion within the state of California for years. Bills have been proposed and moved forward only to die out before any significant movement can be made. For years, the Indian tribes of the state, card rooms, race tracks and legislators cannot seem to come to an agreement on how the activity should take place within the state. Now, one online poker bill seems to be gaining headway.

AB 2863 was able to move forward after the Assembly Appropriations Committee voted in favor of the measure last Wednesday. Members of the committee had been expected to vote on the measure a week prior but the vote was postponed. Amendments to the bill were made and put in place before the vote took place last week.

In the changes, ‘bad actor’ clause language was discussed, which has been a hot point of contention among interested. Online poker operators who provided services in California after the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was put in place in 2006 were to be banned from taking part but now, the bill offers operators the option of paying a $20 million fee on top of the original licensing fee. If the additional fee is not paid, the operator will have to wait an additional five years before having the option to apply for a gaming license.

A second amendment made to the measure includes operators not being able to use accrued assets which will include player lists. Online poker operators who offer services in the state would have to pay $12.5 million in deposit money, of which half would be offset with a reduction in taxes paid by the operator with gaming revenues.

Taxes are set at 10% with the money going towards the California General Fund, even if the $60 million contribution each year for the horse racing fund is not reached. The legislation now moves forward for a full Assembly vote which may not take place in the near future and does require a two-thirds majority vote before the measure can move forward yet again.

Many feel even more changes will need to be made to the measure as there are those in the gambling industry who are not happy with the measure as-is, including the tribal coalition which consists of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

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