PokerStars Fires Back at California Online Coalition

Posted on June 9th, 2014 by Andy Walker
Bicycle Casino PokerStars California online poker legislation

The Bicycle Casino near Los Angeles is one of several cardroom allies working with PokerStars in California. (Image: PokerStars)

Most states looking to regulate online poker would kill for the kind of support that a broad coalition of California’s tribal groups announced earlier this week. But despite the fact that 13 Native American tribes came out in support of a unified Internet poker bill, one major player was left out: PokerStars, and their allies in the state. Now, the online poker giant is firing back at portions of the legislation that they believe are targeted directly at them.

PokerStars, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the three large Golden State poker rooms they’ve aligned with – the Commerce Club, Bicycle Casino and the Hawaiian Gardens Casino – have come out strongly against the online poker bill proposed by the large tribal coalition, saying that it is specifically designed to keep the popular Internet provider out of the market.

Partnership Opposes “Bad Actor” Language

That’s due to the fact that the proposed legislation would include a bad actor clause that would prevent PokerStars – and other operators who continued offering online poker in California after the introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) – from gaining access to the state’s online poker market.

“We strongly oppose the so-called ‘bad actor’ language that is nothing other than a blatant attempt to provide certain interests with an unfair competitive advantage by arbitrarily locking out trusted brands,” the PokerStars-aligned group wrote in a statement. “We will vigorously oppose any legislation that includes this language.”

The move came as no surprise, as the Morongo Band had already announced that they would oppose any bill that did not allow PokerStars to compete for a license on a level playing field. While PokerStars was operating online poker in the United States after the UIGEA laws were in effect, their settlement with the federal government did not require any admission of guilt, and allowed for the company to apply for licenses in jurisdictions that regulated Internet gambling.

PokerStars Wants Regulators to Have Final Say

While many states have introduced their own bad actor clauses in legislation related to online gambling, PokerStars and its allies believe that all companies should have the right to compete for licenses, and that state regulators should evaluate each firm on a case-by-case basis.

“We believe the job of determining suitability should be left with the existing regulators – the CA Gambling Control Commission and the Attorney General’s Bureau of Gambling Control, using the Gambling Control Act’s existing standards that these regulators have been successfully applying for many years,” the statement read.

PokerStars also pointed out that while they would be excluded under the coalition’s bill, others who admitted guilt would be allowed to apply for licenses.

“The legislation would not exclude companies or individuals that clearly have operated illegal California-facing casino wagering and sports betting sites and that have admitted to breaking the law,” they wrote.

Under the Internet poker bill released by the tribal coalition, online California Indian tribes and poker rooms would be eligible for operator’s licenses. Site owners would pay a license deposit of $5 million, and each license would be good for ten years, with additional automatic ten year renewals available. Perhaps most importantly, the bill would only allow for online poker, and would not authorize other casino games on the Internet.

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