Michael Anthony ‘Mike’ Gatto was born in 1974 and raised in Los Angeles, growing up in the Franklin Hills and Silver Lake area. His father was a teacher, his grandfather a steelworker, and both knew the value of hard work, a trait that Mike inherited and thinks about every day as he serves his community. Gatto, now 41 years old, has worked in and around governments throughout his entire career. His current position as an Assemblyman came about after a transition away from his law career to focus on his political career as a Democrat.
Gatto attended the University of California, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1996 before going on to earn a J.D. from Loyola Law School in 2004. While he was attending law school, he attended classes at night and worked as an aide for Congressman Brad Sherman during the day. After graduation, he became an attorney at O’Melveny & Myers before moving on to Mayer Brown. As an attorney, Mike focused on small to medium sized businesses who had issues with the government. His job was to facilitate and help resolve these issues.
While still an attorney, Mike served in the administration of three different mayors of Los Angeles and as president of the El Pueblo Commission. Both were important stepping-stones for Mike’s transition to politics.
It was in January 2010 when Assemblyman Paul Krekorian resigned from his position, which forced Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to schedule an election on April 13th of that year. Because of how he was brought up, Mike had always felt a calling to improve the way government works for hard-working Californians and decided to run. He defeated two fellow Democrats to advance to the runoff election to determine who would serve out the remainder of Krekorians term. On June 8th, Gatto defeated a Republican challenger, with the Los Angeles Daily News throwing their support behind Gatto, referring to Gatto as “fiscally minded and intelligent… the kind of legislator California needs.” Mike went on to win the full term election in November 2010 with 65.9% of the vote and was reelected in 2012 and 2014 with 60.2% and 67% of votes respectively. The district for which he was elected includes Burbank, Franklin Hills, Silver Lake, Hollywood Hills and half of Hollywood, which makes it an important section of California.
While attending law school in 2001, Gatto started to get interested in poker as the online craze took hold of thousands of students nationwide. Gatto never made the switch to being a professional poker player, but he has recorded 14 cashes from 2005 – 2015. Of the 14 cashes, he has three 1st place finishes, three 2nd place finishes and a 3rd, which is not a record to be ashamed of. The biggest cash was in November 2005 when he won a $160 No Limit Holdem tournament for $23,743 in Pendleton. Unfortunately, none of those hands were recorded, so we can’t try and determine his mindset at the poker table.
In 2011, Mike Gatto was still establishing himself as a politician when online poker’s version of Black Friday hit. While there have been numerous politicians involved in potentially regulating poker at both a state and federal level in America, Gatto captured the attention of the poker community in December 2014 when he introduced “The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015”, known as AB 9. The bill is seen as the best chance of leading to regulated online poker in California. Though Mike does agree that it will take time, seeing as he received instant opposition when he proposed it.
In January he made it clear he knew his initial act was not going to be well-received, stating “My goal remains creating a sensible framework for a new California industry”. He is willing to work with all stakeholders to work through the issues, as he’s been said to consider listening as one of his biggest assets.
The biggest issue poker players had in the initial act presented by Gatto was the “bad actor” clause. This means that the likes of PokerStars would not be eligible to receive a license due to the Department of Justice seizing their domain in 2011 for serving online poker players in the U.S. This went against the UIGEA, which was implemented in 2006.
On July 3rd 2015, Mike Gatto canceled a public hearing in regards to the “The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015” scheduled for the following week. He said, “it’s the right thing to do at this point because there is no consensus on the issue yet.”
Mike has definitely been consistent about keeping all the parties satisfied as a resolution is sought. He is not one to waste time and unless all of the key stakeholders are in general agreement he is not going to push it forward without the bill being the best it can be.
Gatto considers the bill to be of utmost importance. Gross gaming revenue could be upwards of $729 million in its first year. A portion of that sum is something California isn’t going to laugh at when any government revenue stream is being looked into. He has tagged the act as an urgency, therefore he could address the issues with the public at a moment’s notice.
As a Democrat Assembly member, Gatto is the second most independent member voting against his party nearly 10% of the time. This is even more remarkable as he had one of the legislature attendance records in 2011, improving this in the 2013-2014 session when he did not miss a single assembly vote out of 5897 votes, the only one with a perfect attendance record.
What makes the above record even more impressive is Mike’s father was murdered in a Silver Lake home invasion in 2014 and the investigation into the murder was taxing on their entire family. It is believed around one in 12 votes will be by a politician who is either undecided on an issue or is missing from the vote.
While Mike is still in the early days of his political career, he has quickly become known for his substantive and innovative pieces of legislation to improve our quality of life.
In addition to improving the communities’ quality of life, he works hard to ensure he dedicates time to his own family. Mike is married to Danielle with whom he has two daughters, Elliana Vivienne, and Evangelina Felicity.
Mike is a likable personality in politics. Who doesn’t like a guy who presents legislation to make it easier for dog parks to be implemented in your neighborhood?