PokerStars Coalition to Meet with Mike Gatto on California Online Poker Bill

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PokerStars Gatto California online poker
Mike Gatto says he’ll be talking to PokerStars and their friends in California before the end of the year. (Image:

PokerStars and their California allies will meet with Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) to talk about his online poker bill (AB 9) and their respective visions for Internet poker in the state.

Gatto’s bill is similar to a proposed plan for online poker regulation that was recommended by a coalition of tribal gaming interests in California last year.

AB9 would allow California Native American tribes and the owners of card rooms to operate online poker sites, but would not extend that right to the state’s racetracks.

It would also include a bad actor clause, one that would likely keep PokerStars out of the market (though it does also include language that would give Amaya Gaming a chance to get back into the good graces of state regulators).

PokerStars Coalition Unhappy with Bad Actor Clause

Still, the fact that there was a bad actor clause at all didn’t sit well with PokerStars or the tribes and card rooms that are allied with them in the state.

“Unfortunately, AB 9 is a rehash of previously unsuccessful proposals,” the coalition wrote in a statement. “Any bill that seeks to establish artificial competitive advantages for some, while denying Californians the best online poker experiences, will only serve to divide the community and will be opposed by our coalition.”

But AB 9 isn’t in its final form, and the PokerStars coalition (which includes the Bicycle Casino, the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians) will have a chance to weigh in on what California online poker should look like.

“Today we have scheduled meetings with the Amaya coalition,” Gatto said in an interview with Online Poker Report’s Marco Valerio that was posted this week. “I expect before the end of December to discuss their vision for a bill. We definitely will be meeting with anyone who wants a meeting on this.”

Gatto Knows Online Poker Bill Will Be a Tough Sell

Gatto said that he expected it to be difficult to get everyone on board with a single bill, which means that the chances for failure are still rather high. However, he still thinks online poker is worth pursuing.

“I think this is a very difficult bill,” Gatto said. “It’s going to be a very, very difficult negotiation and it’s going to be a long year, but this is something that I think would be a lost opportunity if we didn’t come to the table and try to work it out.”

When it came to the bad actor clause, Gatto said that he had been told that his version was less “aggressive” than similar rules in other proposals, and that his ultimate goal is to create a level playing field for everyone in the game.

Of course, not everyone with an interest in online gambling will agree on exactly what “fair” means.

“We want to make sure that groups who are authorized to participate in online poker all have the same chance, particularly those who were very careful to do everything right and who were very careful to adhere to every policy that existed before,” Gatto said. “I would never want to create a situation where we were playing favorites for one group or one entity.”

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