California Online Poker Update: Let's Talk About Bad Actors

California lawmakers are meeting this week to take another stab at AB2863. their long-delayed online poker bill. Once again, the assembled politicians will be attempting to appease a galaxy of competing stakeholders that are all looking to grab their own piece of the California online gambling dream, while keeping their competitors from getting a taste.
The main items on the agenda for Wednesday’s hearing, according to a report on, are bad actors and kickbacks.
Keeping bad actors (operators who’ve allowed unregulated play from US players) out of the market is a very big deal to the main stakeholders in California online gambling, tribal gaming interests. Several powerful Indian tribes, particularly the Pechanga, have been unwilling to budge on the bad actor issue.
While there’s certainly some merit to punishing operators who don’t play by the rules, the Pechanga-led effort seems to be specifically aimed at keeping online poker giant PokerStars out of the Golden State market. (Despite having made restitution to the US Department of Justice for its bad actor days, PokerStars is, seemingly, forever tagged with that label).
Also at issue is the matter of whether or not California race tracks should get a slice of the online poker pie. While tribal interests are reluctant to deal race track operators in directly, they’ve offered to pay kickbacks of up to $60 million a year to tracks to stay out of the game.
In short, California is still a pretty long way from anything like a final draft of an online poker. Unless lawmakers can reign in the special interest groups driving this process, they’re not likely to get anything going anytime soon.