California Reenters the Prohibition Club

14 March 2001
This week has seen prohibition efforts go into overdrive, with California being the latest to join the Net betting prohibition club. Assembly Bill 1229, introduced on February 23 by Assembly Member Dario Frommer (D-Glendale), however, is an even more expansive bill than those introduced recently in the Oregon legislature. The California bill targets operators of gambling sites, as well as their players, whereas the Oregon bills mainly focuses on payment methods used for online gambling.

Frommer's bill was preceded by AB 2179, which was introduced on the same date in 2000 by Assembly Member Herb Wesson, Jr. (See related article, "Prohibition Lurks Again in California.") Wesson's passed in the House, but fell short of passing in the Senate.

AB1229 would ban any person from operating or betting against any prohibited online gambling game, as defined within the bill, for money, checks, credit, or any other representative of value. The bill would also make it a misdemeanor punishable by fine and/or imprisonment for operating or offering for play any prohibited online gambling game to any person physically located within the state at the time of the transaction, or operating such a game from a host server, as defined within the bill's terms, that is physically located in the state at the time of the transaction.

Among the prohibited games are craps, roulette, blackjack or twenty-one, slot machines, poker (and its variations: study poker, draw poker, Caribbean stud poker, and Pai gow poker), baccarat, bingo (including bingo pull tab games), lottery games (except for those legally operated by the state lottery), horse race wagering and sports wagering (including wagering on the outcome, statistics, or any other aspect of a sporting event). Under these prohibitions, even fantasy sports wagering would be illegal in California.

The bill would also empower the state attorney general and district attorneys to enforce its provisions.

Those found guilty of violating AB 1229 would face punishment for each transaction, including incarceration in the county jail for up to 90 days and/or $1,000 fine.

This piece of legislation also provides a number of exemptions, including ISPs, Web pages with hyperlinks, search engines or other equipment that acts as "mere functional intermediaries" between the punter and an Internet gambling site. Exemptions have also been provided for tribal gaming and state lotteries.

A spokesman for Frommer said that the assembly member considered Internet gambling a "public safety issue" and that gambling had "no place on the Internet."

The bill is in a "holding pattern" for now, he added, as it's waiting to be assigned to a committee for further consideration.

Frommer is a freshman legislator, but he brings substantial governmental experience to the position. Previously, he served as appointments secretary to Governor Gray Davis and as an advisor to Gray in previous positions. Frommer also served as chief of staff to former Senator Art Torres.

Click here to view AB 1229.