PokerStars Coalition to Meet with Gatto on California Online Poker

Posted on December 19th, 2014 by Alana Markoff
California Online Poker Gatto Amaya

Mike Gatto says he’ll talk to Amaya and their partners about a California online poker bill. (Image: LAWeekly.com)

PokerStars and their California allies may not have been happy with the first draft of Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Glendale) online poker bill, a piece of legislation designated as AB 9.

But Gatto plans to keep an open mind about what AB 9 will entail, and it sounds as though PokerStars will get a chance to plead their case in the near future.

In an interview with Marco Valerio of Online Poker Report, Gatto said that he plans to take input from Amaya Gaming and their California coalition of card rooms and Indian tribal groups, as well as from anyone else who wants to make their opinions on the bill known.

“We are more than happy to take suggestions from anybody,” Gatto said. “Today we have scheduled meetings with the Amaya coalition. I expect before the end of December to discuss their vision for a bill.”

Bad Actor Clause is Point of Contention

It’s likely that the bad actor clause including in AB 9 would be a major part of any conversation between Gatto and Amaya. The legislation includes language that would preclude companies that operated online poker sites in the United States after the passage of the UIGEA regulations from applying for a California online gaming license.

That also applies to companies that have purchased UIGEA violators, meaning Amaya could be barred as well.

The bill does include language that would give Amaya (or anyone else affected) a chance to win over regulators and get into the California Internet poker market. But the hurdles involved were still enough for PokerStars and their friends to come out strongly against Gatto’s legislation, at least in its current form.

“As a coalition, we are committed to working with legislators and our other partners in the gaming community to pass Internet poker legislation in 2015 that establishes a vibrant, competitive marketplace, provides superior consumer protections, and ensures that the state receives a reasonable return,” the coalition wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, AB 9 is a rehash of previously unsuccessful proposals. Any bill that seeks to establish artificial competitive advantages for some, while denying Californians the best online poker experiences, will only serve to divide the community and will be opposed by our coalition.”

The Amaya coalition includes the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, along with three of the state’s largest card rooms: the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, and the Bicycle Casino.

Gatto Says Amaya Will Get a Fair Shot, But Bill Will Be Tough Sell

Gatto, who says he has been following the online poker since 2001, says that he’s willing to give PokerStars and Full Tilt a fair shake when it comes to considering their place in a potential California online poker market.

“You know, I’ve read a lot about them,” Gatto said about the two Rational Group poker brands. “I know that some of their assets got acquired by Amaya, and there are different people who describe the acquisition in different ways – but I come at this legislation with an open mind.”

Gatto also acknowledged that despite his efforts to bring everyone to the table, there’s still a good chance that his bill won’t get off the ground.

“I’m under no delusions here. I think this is a very difficult bill,” he said. “But this is something that I think would be a lost opportunity if we didn’t come to the table and try to work it out. So that’s what we’re going to try to do, and there is a 50-50 shot we fail spectacularly once again.”

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