°180 for Caesars and Rincon Tribe, PokerStars entry in California now supported
As long as California lawmakers have been debating the issue of online poker regulation, there have been those who opposed the entry of any operator who ignored the UIGEA of 2006. For the past few years, ‘bad actor clauses’ have been aimed at keeping illegal operators out of California—if and when a bill actually passes, that is—but now it seems like more and more vested interests are swaying their favor in the direction of PokerStars.
Every bad actor clause to date has been (theoretically) aimed at preventing PokerStars from participating in a California online poker market. The company was portrayed in many lights, from duplicitous for its acceptance of Californians after 2006, to a threatening entity far too difficult to compete with.
Now some groups are changing their opinions of the world’s largest online poker room. The latest confirmation of compromise came from Jan Jones Blackhurst, the Executive VP of Communications and Government Relations for Caesars Entertainment. Chris Krafcik of GamblingCompliance confirmed the company’s opinion yesterday on Twitter:
Caesars’ Jan Jones Blackhurst told me the company believes Amaya Gaming Group-PokerStars “should be considered for legalization in the U.S.”
— Chris Krafcik (@CKrafcik) February 13, 2015
Interestingly enough, the announcement from Caesars comes on the heels of the casino company’s California partner, the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, who made a similar declaration just days prior. The Rincon were previously sided with Pechanga and its allies, who were adamant that UIGEA-breachers like PokerStars, as well as pari-mutuel racing tracks, should not be permitted to hold an online poker license.
On Tuesday, three of those tribes shifted their focus when the heads of the Rincon, Pala and United Auburn Indian Community each signed a letter addressed to the authors of California’s two online poker bills, Assemblymen Mike Gatto (AB 9) and Reggie Jones-Sawyer (AB 2291).
In the letter from the California tribes, it was suggested that lawmakers take “an approach that looks specifically at personal participation in unauthorized gaming.” While they still believe companies that willfully defied the UIGEA, and continue to be headed by the same individuals, should be excluded, the letter advised: “If a company that engaged in unauthorized gaming changed ownership, regulators would be able to review the effect of that change in ownership under the bill’s standards.”
Where they have yet to compromise, however, is the matter of whether assets belonging to a company under new ownership should be permissible. To that end, PokerStars may be able to enter a California online poker market, but whether they should be allowed to use the original PokerStars software is another matter.
“While we have not yet identified a possible consensus position,” said the tribes, “we encourage continued conversation on this important issue to identify an approach based on considerations of fairness, regulatory integrity, and legal requirements at issue.”
The letter appears to reflect the results of a tribal gaming meeting that took place in California this week, where the subject of online poker regulation was highlighted. All tribes agreed that compromise is the key to getting online poker legalized in the Golden State. It certainly seems that some tribes are working diligently toward that end, and in doing so, the Rincon have harvested the support of their gaming partner, Caesars Entertainment.