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California Online Gambling Bill is Cool with Bad Actors

A new online gambling bill being introduced in the California State Legislature has a little something for everyone from bad actors to powerful Indian gaming interests.

If it passes into law, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015 (AB176) would open up the regulated US online gambling market to as many as 2 million new players. Even better, the bill includes generous provisions for interstate gaming compacts that would turn those new players loose across the country.

Unlike other proposed Golden State gaming bills, this one is also something of gift to operators who might be tagged as bad actors in states like Nevada and New Jersey.

Under the proposed California rules, operators who took US action after 2006 would be barred from the market only if their actions were ruled to be, “contemptuous,” toward investigating bodies during poker-related investigations.

While it’s tough to tell who exactly that clause was written for, there are several big gaming companies that could potentially benefit from it.

Speaking of benefits, AB167 has some special perks for the big Indian casino interests who have blocked earlier attempts to bring online gambling to California. Most importantly, AB167 limits Native gaming to players who are physically present on Indian lands.

That particular clause seems aimed at halting the spread of online gambling to small, isolated tribes who pose a threat to established Indian casinos across the state. With their ability to grab Internet customers across the state reduced, and no significant land-based casinos, smaller tribes would be all but shut out of the market.

Of course smaller operators might be so put off by the proposed $10 million licensing fee, that they’ll decide to skip out on California entirely. Funny how that works.

One potential poison pill for AB167 is a clause requiring would-be online players to make their deposits at established casinos, card rooms or other licensed third parties. Ostensibly, this measure is designed to curb impulsive gambling, but it sure looks like another gift to established, land-based gaming interests.

Still, it’s tough to see an online market develop when customers can’t pay online.

Given California’s track record for shooting down online gambling bills, there’s probably not much point in getting worked up over any part of AB167. This is just the latest in a long series of Cali internet gambling proposals, all of which have been shot down by competing gaming interests.