James Guill

Both California online poker bills were pulled earlier this month due to time constraints. Now we’ve discovered that there was more going on behind the scenes and what may be to come in 2015.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer recently spoke with PokerNews.com regarding AB 2291 and revealed the real reason for shelving the bill. He told PokerNews that the “Department of Justice and the California Gaming Commission did not have enough time to review the language and make relevant recommendations on the regulatory structure of the bill.” One would think that he would have contacted both parties long before August, but parties have been busy trying to clear up the bad actor issue with tribes.

Jones-Sawyer did point out that great progress has been made in the last year with Indian tribes. A consensus was reached earlier in the year regarding online poker and now over 30 tribes are in support of legalizing the game. He told PokerNews that the tribes are more united than ever to bring the game to the state.

A new bill will be coming at the beginning of the next legislative session. He is currently working on creating a new bill that will address key issues in order to expedite passage. His goal is to reach a “clear consensus and mutual agreement as to who will be able to participate in providing Internet poker to our citizens.”

The two potential roadblocks to passage remain the bad actor clause and race track participation in the legalized market. Jones-Sawyer mentioned race tracks as stakeholders in the future marketplace but didn’t mention how they would be included.

When addressing bad actors, he stated that any bad actor clause must be written in a way that is “applied fairly and avoids any possible future legal challenges.” The second part of that statement is important. Harvard Professor Lawrence H. Tribe has called the bad actor clause unconstitutional and serves as a potential Bill of Attainder. If lawmakers don’t clear up potential grey areas such as this, any potential bill could be tied up in the courts for years.

Jones-Sawyer’s final quote would imply that passage in 2015 is not a slam-dunk. He told PokerNews, “We have come a long way, but we have to be patient so we can get this right. Setting a standard in California that will be an example for the entire nation is my ultimate goal.”

Such a statement would almost imply that there might be more work ahead than anticipated to pass online poker next year. However, this timeline could speed up dramatically if key issues are cleared up. With any luck, California will be the fourth state to legalize online poker sometime during 2015.