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Calif. Online Poker Legislation Saga Ends for 2016

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In nearly eight years of efforts, California legislators made the most significant progress toward legalizing online poker in 2016. But the coalition led by PokerStars and the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) did not accept the terms of the tribal coaltion before the legislative session came to a close on August 31.

RELATED: Calif. Committee Passes I-Poker Bill

The tribal coalition, led by the owners of the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, the state’s largest Indian casino, want penalties toughened against the poker businesses that operated illegally in California for 10 years, after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in 2006. Despite the ban, these businesses gained an unfair advantage and built a substantial player database.

When the tribal coalition proposed a five-year penalty and a $20 million fine imposed on violators like PokerStars, Assemblyman Adam Gray backed it. Many people thought the bill might go through, making California the fourth state to legalize online poker, joining Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.

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Assemblyman Gray attempted to push the online poker bill through before the end of the California legislative session to no avail. PokerStars and the PPA would not accept the terms.

Industry leaders say there's no reason not to expect another iPoker push in 2017. Whether the bill could advance if a compromise between the two sides is not reached in 2017 remains to be seen.