California I-Poker Bill Clears Latest Hurdle

25 June 2008

A bill to regulate Internet gambling in California passed another test in the State Legislature on Tuesday.

AB 2026, introduced to the Legislature in February by Lloyd E. Levine, a Democratic assemblyman, passed the Senate Governmental Organization Committee in a 7-to-1 vote on Tuesday.

"We were pretty happy," Jim Tabilio, president of the Poker Voters of America, the grassroots organization sponsoring the bill, told Interactive Gaming News in a telephone interview Wednesday. "Now we've got everybody at the table and it's a matter of how do we make it all work?"

The bill amends the state Gambling Control Act to allow state-licensed operators to offer Internet poker to citizens of California, exclusively.

Originally, Mr. Levine's bill aimed to study the legality, under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, of an intrastate poker scheme in California.

But in April, after receiving bi-partisan support from the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, Mr. Levine told IGN that he would likely be able to bypass the study and begin constructing a regulatory bill.

The bill was amended on June 18, and the study language was replaced with language for the implementation of online poker in the state.

"We amended the bill to make it a little more substantive," Mr. Tabilio said.

Tuesday's committee vote authorizes the attorney general's office, the California Gambling Control Commission and the Legislative Counsel to analyze potential revenue and construct a system for intrastate poker, Mr. Tabilio said.

The attorney general's office has also been authorized to begin drafting regulations, he added.

The bill will move next to the Senate Appropriations Committee for fiscal review.

Mr. Tabilio said he hopes to have the final version of the bill submitted to the committee for a vote by the end of August.

Following approval by the Senate committee, the bill would move to the Senate floor for a vote.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.