California Online Poker Sees Caesars and Tribal Gaming Inch Towards Compromise

Posted on February 16th, 2015 by Daniel Ryder
Seth Palansky Caesars California online poker

The hopes for California online poker were bolstered by recent comments by Caesars’ Seth Palansky. (Image: calvinayre.com)

California online poker has long been a dream for gaming operators and players alike, but efforts to bring the game to America’s most populated state have hit a stalling pattern over the last few years.

There are numerous gambling interests in the state, and few of them seem to be on the same page. Disputes remain over “bad actor” clauses and just who can run a poker site in California.

But over the last few days, it seems like there has been some movement by at least a few major players in the industry.

Caesars Might Forgo “Bad Actor” Clause

First, there are signs that Caesars is willing to let go of the “bad actor” clause, a rule that would keep operators that stayed in the US market after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) went into effect from applying for licenses in California.

This clause would mainly impact PokerStars, the online poker behemoth that would likely be one of the leaders in the state if it was allowed in.

A recent tweet from Gambling Compliance’s Chris Krafcik suggested that Caesars is okay with PokerStars being let back into the United States.

“Caesars’ Jan Jones Blackhurst told me the company believes Amaya Gaming Group-PokerStars ‘should be considered for legalization in the US,’” Krafcik tweeted.

That appeared to be in line with previous comments made by Seth Palansky, vice president of corporate communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment, who said that the company would be okay with entering any market “as long as everyone is on a level playing field.”

While such statements from a major player like Caesars are definitely a positive sign for online poker in California, it’s only a first step: after all, there are numerous interests involved in the state, and most of them will have to be on board with the same set of rules for any Internet gaming bill to pass in the state.

But this was not an isolated event, as several Indian tribes in California have also shown a willingness to compromise a bit in order to move closer to a solution.

Tribes Suggest Limiting Bad Actor Clause to Individuals

Last week, three new tribal groups, including the Pala Band of Mission Indians, the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, and the United Auburn Indian Community, wrote to the sponsors of the two online poker bills that have been introduced into the California legislature this year.

In the letter, the tribes said that “bad actor” clauses should only apply to individuals, and not brands or corporations, once those individuals have moved on. That would likely absolve PokerStars, since the company’s founders left after it was bought by Amaya Gaming.

That letter also offered hope that there could be movement on the issue of allowing the horse racing industry into the online poker picture.

“For the purposes of moving legislation that authorizes Internet poker in California, we support the approach of AB 167 in permitted horse racing associations to be eligible for Internet poker operator licenses,” the letter read.

Not all the talk of diplomacy and negotiation is coming from opponents of PokerStars, either. The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has been one of the site’s chief allies in California, and recently made it clear that they’d be willing to compromise in order to get something done.

“There has to be compromise or it won’t get done,” Morongo Band Chairman Robert Martin told the Press Enterprise. “At the end of the day, we all want what is best for the tribes.”

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