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Dan Podheiser

Dan  Podheiser

Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

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California online poker bill heads to Assembly

28 Apr 2016

By Dan Podheiser
The legalization of online poker in California took a key step forward Wednesday afternoon, when the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee unanimously passed AB 2863.

This is the second straight year that the state legislative committee has passed a bill that aims to regulate online poker. The bill now heads to the full Assembly.

The bill, introduced and sponsored by committee chair Adam Gray, last week received unanimous support from the state's horse racing industry, which has historically opposed online poker legislation. But AB 2863 promises the horse racing industry a $60 million subsidy in exchange for the industry giving up the ability to operate its own online poker sites.

"The question of how to regulate iPoker has been in front of the Legislature for nearly a decade," Gray said in a press release after the vote Wednesday. "We have not rushed this process. We have taken the time necessary to thoroughly understand and respond to the concerns put forth by stakeholders. Through this process, we have created a coalition that is willing to acknowledge the problem and support a comprehensive solution."

Gray also addressed the need for consumer protections in California, noting that millions of residents already play online poker on offshore, unregulated sites.

"We know unequivocally that Californians are playing these games online every single day on websites that provide zero consumer protections," Gray said.

The bill would require the California Gambling Control Commission, in consultation with the California Department of Justice, to draft regulations for an operating online poker site.

During questions following testimony yesterday, Gray said the next step to resolve the bill is suitability, promising that the bill would be updated with suitability language by the time it comes up for a vote before the full Assembly. The staunchest opposition to the bill, mainly from California tribal divisions, is the lack of a "bad actor" provision that would prevent companies like PokerStars from operating in the state. PokerStars operated illegally in the U.S. market after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed in 2006.

Once the bill reaches an Assembly vote, it will need a two-thirds majority to reach the state Senate.
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