California Poker Bill Continues Steady Advance

11 August 2008

A bill in California to legalize Internet poker within the state on Friday was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and may now be taken to the Senate floor for full amendments. However, the bill's sponsors will likely hold off on pushing it through the Legislature until next year, as the current session ends in one week.

AB 2026, the California Gambling Control/Intrastate Poker Legalization Act, has taken on multiple forms since its introduction in February 2008.

When Assemblyman Lloyd E. Levine, Democrat of Van Nuys, first proposed the bill, its language simply set out a study into the feasibility of an online poker scheme in California -- within the confines of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

In June, after receiving approval from the office of Legislative Counsel -- the legal advisor to the California legislature -- as well as bi-partisan support from the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, Mr. Levine amended the bill by replacing the study language with language for the full implementation and regulation of Internet poker within California.

On July 1, however, a Senate committee returned the bill's language to study language, but with a few differences.

"In the end, the study would direct the attorney general to investigate the specifics of how to do certain things regarding implementation," Jim Tabilio, president of the Poker Voters of America, told IGamingNews in a phone message on Thursday.

According to the latest version of the bill, the Gambling Control Commission and the Bureau of Gambling Control within the Department of Justice will "prepare a study containing suggested guidelines for the play of poker on the Internet, as specified, and provide a structure for regulation for gambling establishments and tribal governments to offer poker on the Internet."

Now, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the bill, which was the last major hurdle to clear; however, all of the amendments and approval may be moot, according to Mr. Tabilio, whose group is the bill's main sponsor.

He told IGN Monday that he and the people working on getting the bill passed may decide to regroup until next year.

The California State Assembly adjourns in approximately one week to depart for the Democratic and Republican national conventions, so the bill is not likely to pass this session, but Mr. Tabilio is pleased with the progress they have made this year.

The likely plan now is to conduct an independent study in the interim researching other gambling jurisdictions and learning how to properly regulate online gambling so a new bill can be introduced in January that contains just implementation language, Mr. Tabilio said.

"We'll just have to get back into it next year," Mr. Tabilio said.

Recap 2008

  • February: AB 2026 is introduced as a study bill.

  • April: AB 2026 receives approval from the office of the Legislative Counsel.

  • April: AB 2026 receives bi-partisan support from the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee.

  • June: Mr. Levine amends AB 2026, replacing study language with implementation language.

  • July: Senate committee amends AB 2026, reverting the language to a study bill, but with some changes.

  • August: AB 2026 receives approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee, but sponsors decide that the likely course of action is to reintroduce another version of the bill in January.

    Click here to view the latest amendment to AB 2026.

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