If regulated online poker is to become a reality in California this year then things better speed up pretty soon, and although the state is closer than it has ever been to making this happen, the deadline of August 31st is looming. The bottom line is that if there is no movement on either of the current bills or if a new one is not created and passed very quickly, then on the last day of August it all stands for nothing, as all pending bills are dismissed, thrown out and forgotten about.
This is the fifth consecutive year that California has flirted with regulating online poker, and although this year things are slightly different in that deals have been made between tribes and software providers, those deals do in fact stand for nothing without the legislature behind them. The two bills under consideration at present are in fact pretty similar and it’s the age old argument of the ‘bad actor’ clause that’s causing all the issues, in fact let’s cut to the chase here, it’s actually whether or not to allow PokerStars to be involved in any regulated online poker activity in California that’s the issue.
Bad Actor - PokerStars - Same Thing
The ‘bad actor’ clause means that any company that accepted wagers from any person based in the US after December 31st 2006 is deemed to have broken the law, and of course that would include PokerStars. While the debate may rage on about the farcical UIGEA of 2006 the fact is that although Stars may have cleared their name, paid their dues and have even been taken over by Amaya, they remain classed as bad actors, and herein lies the major problem.
The bad actor clause has caused a massive rift between the Californian tribes and one that will most likely mean that nothing gets done this year. While the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, who own the Hawaiian Gardens, the Bicycle Casino and the Commerce Casino are wanting the bad actor clause removed, obviously due to the fact that they have entered into a deal with PokerStars to provide online poker, every other tribe are opposed to allowing PokerStars entry to the California market. That debate seems set to continue until forever, and without agreed terminology on who can and cannot be part of the potentially very lucrative California online poker market then there will be no market.
One thing is however crystal clear, and that is that if PokerStars were to walk away and state that they had no interest in this market, then online poker players in California would have the regulated sites in place. That is of course unlikely to happen, and it seems likely that the debate will continue into its 6th year, so until things change, players can simply enjoy their action elsewhere, with Bovada Poker being the pick of the offshore sites.