PokerStars Optimistic About California iPoker Heading into 2016

Written By James Guill on September 18, 2015
PokerStars is looking forward to making some noise in California in 2016.

Last week, the 2015 California legislative session ended without a resolution on iPoker. This means that advocates and stakeholders must wait at least one more year before online poker becomes regulated in California.

Despite the delays in the regulation process, Amaya Inc. recently revealed that they are still optimistic regarding their chances of receiving a license. Per a report from the Financial Post on Thursday, they believe that it is a matter of when and not if PokerStars will receive a license to offer iPoker.

PokerStars Lobbying Hard in State Expected to Generate $380 Million Annually

Eric Hollreiser, VP of corporate communications for Amaya, was quoted in Thursdays report and is hopeful that the process accelerates. He stated, “We see a lot of momentum and it’s really a question of when not if, and obviously we’re hoping that it’s sooner rather than later.

PokerStars began a major lobbying campaign in 2015 with their Let California Play! initiative and the PokerStars Pro Tour. Team Pros such as Daniel Negreanu and Vanessa Selbst traveled around the state to promote the site and iPoker regulation to California residents.

The Pro Tour visited 11 California card rooms and helped raise money for local charities. PokerStars plans to hold future stops later in the fall and in 2016. In addition, they formed the group Californians for Responsible iPoker to spell out their intentions for regulation and to give citizens an avenue to contact their local legislators.

Lobbying is Important for Industry According to PokerStars

Amaya CEO David Baazov spoke with the Quebec MBA association in Montreal about California regulation on Thursday and emphasized the importance of regulation and PokerStars’ efforts to lobby for that end.

Speaking about regulation, Baazov told the group, “Regulation ensures license holders have the correct auditing, fraud and fund protection in place to protect consumers and allow strict government oversight.” So far, regulated states have been successful at protecting customer funds and preventing underage gambling.

Baazov continued speaking about lobbying efforts by the company, possibly an explanation as why the company has increased their lobbying in 2015. He stated, “To achieve those objectives it’s important to support and lobby for clarity and regulation that will allow consumers and governments to feel secure in knowing that they’re protected by a legitimate, forward-looking industry.

Lobbying Efforts are Coming at Crucial Time for Company

One cannot claim that PokerStars misses opportunities. When it became clear that opinions regarding bad actors were beginning to shift, the company sprung into action to try to change other stakeholder opinions and to mobilize California citizens.

Right now, the Pechanga remain the only truly relevant opposition to PokerStars becoming regulated in California. We believe that this opposition will be tested in the next few months as citizens and other groups call for compromise over the matter.

The Pechanga have shown a willingness to deal in regards to allowing the horse racing industry to participate in California iPoker, so perhaps it is time that they consider a compromise for PokerStars.

While PokerStars hasn’t made their intentions to compromise public, one can assume that the company would agree to a reasonable compromise. We expect 2016 to be a key year in California regulation. While we’re uncertain that a bill will pass, we do expect ground to be gained with an eye on finally passing a bill in 2017.


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James Guill

Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

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