The race is back on in California as the first online poker bill has been introduced to the state government. Proposed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, this new online poker measure contains some interesting key alterations compared to previous attempts. While the context would greatly benefit land-based casinos and card rooms, horse racing tracks won’t be permitted to participate, and neither will PokerStars.

Starting with the most important text for online poker players in California, we’ll examine the newly revised ‘bad actors’ clause. It reads much like the old one supplied by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, where any operators that accepted Californians since 2007, (thereby breaching the UIGEA of 2006), are prohibited from obtaining a license. However, the amended section also eliminates operators that were acquired by a new parent company after breaching that law.

In reference to bad actors, Gatto’s online poker bill reads:

In the Legislature’s judgment, a knowing decision to purchase or otherwise acquire that data for use in connection with Internet poker in the state bears directly on the applicant’s suitability and must be considered in any determination whether to license that applicant under this chapter.

Hence PokerStars, under the new ownership of Canada-based Amaya Gaming, would be excluded.

Racing tracks won’t make the grade either, according to Gatto’s legislation. The bill says regulators should license “only those entities that are otherwise eligible to offer real-money poker games within the state that have significant experience operating in a regulated land-based gaming facility environment.” Therefore, the state would license “only those entities in California that have experience operating card rooms and tribal gaming facilities that are currently permitted to offer live real-money poker games”.

The bad actors clause and exclusion of racing tracks from participation in a California online poker market have been two of the most debated arguments since the state first began discussing legalization years ago. However, Gatto did say in an interview with PokerNews that he is not opposed to amending the bad actors clause or exclusion of racing facilities.

To get more tribal casinos and card rooms on board, the online poker bill was designed to ensure that all land-based operations are not cannibalized by online poker, including the smaller operators around the state. The bill would require new players to make their first deposit in person at the website’s corresponding casino or an associated ‘satellite service center’ (smaller casino / card room associated with the operator). In addition, deposits and withdrawals that exceed a certain amount must be made in person at a similarly eligible location. Gatto explained that every Californian should be at least within one hour of such a location, and that it would ensure all establishments are still patronized all over the state.

The actual minimum/maximum purchase and withdrawal amounts associated with that section were left blank in the text of the online poker bill. Gatto later said that the amount could range anywhere from $300 to $10,000. He also justified the in-person payment requirements as being added to help eliminate the threat of underage gambling and money laundering.

It should be noted that Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer is still expected to introduce a revamped version of his previous California online poker bill in the near future. That new bill is supposedly being scripted to allow more operators to participate in the industry, including PokerStars and possibly racing tracks.