California iGaming Week in Review: PokerStars Rumors Escalate, Feinstein Backs Adelson

Written By Steve Ruddock on March 28, 2014 - Last Updated on September 13, 2022
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Online poker talk in California and across the country is no longer a subject only discussed at the kid’s table, this topic is now hotly debated at the adult’s table. Consider that not that long ago the introduction of online poker bills received almost zero attention, but in 2014 the fight over online gambling is landing in the headlines of nearly every mainstream media outlet.

In this installment of the California iGaming Week in Review I’ll detail the latest developments on the PokerStars rumor front; let you know which US Senator from California has come out against online gambling; and preview next month’s online poker hearing in the California State Assembly.

PokerStars causes tensions to rise in California

Even though the state is as close as it’s ever been to passing online poker legislation, PokerStars has somehow managed to commandeer the conversation in California, as the world’s largest online poker provider is apparently looking for a Pacific entry point into the US after its Atlantic crossing failed.

Last week we reported that rumors were flying aligning PokerStars with the Morongo Tribe as well as three Los Angeles card-rooms, The Commerce, The Bicycle Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens, and this was something I speculated would not sit well with other tribes and card-rooms.

Sure enough, it didn’t take long for several entities to comment on the potential inclusion of PokerStars in California online poker. No fewer than 12 tribes signed a statement calling on California lawmakers to insist on a “bad actors” clause, and make no mistake about it, this is all about PokerStars:

Recent news reports indicate that online poker operator, PokerStars, is in partnership negotiations with a California tribe and two or more card clubs to offer online poker in California. Although we presently have slightly differing views on a legislative framework for Intrastate Internet Poker in California, our tribal governments are united in our steadfast opposition to the easing of regulatory standards that would accommodate bad actors whose past behavior and tainted brands and assets would erode the integrity of Intrastate Internet poker under consideration.

Chris Grove has an excellent write-up on this new coalition fighting against PokerStars.

This is in addition to the letter from Leslie Lohse, the Chairperson of the California Tribal Business Alliance:

Recent accounts in the media indicate that PokerStars is in partnership negotiations with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three large Southern California Card Clubs to offer online poker in California.


One of the most significant issues in the legislative discussions is who will be allowed to offer online poker in California. From the California Tribal Business Alliance’s (CTBA) perspective, only entities that adhere to the highest regulatory standards, such as those used in the regulation of Indian gaming, should be licensed to provide online play.

California Assembly to host Internet Poker hearing

Over the past year online poker in the United States has gone from wishful thinking to a reality in three states, and now states like California are looking to make up the ground they’ve already conceded — an amazing turn of events considering California was the first state to seriously consider online poker legislation some five years ago.

California seems quite serious this year as interests have aligned, and while I wouldn’t say they are on the same page at least the numerous tribes and card-rooms in the state are finally reading the same book.

Our next big indicator as to the potential for online poker legislation making it through the legislature will likely take place next month when the California Assembly holds a hearing titled, “Public Policy and Fiscal Implications of Authorizing Intrastate Internet Poker in California,” which will take place on April 23rd.

Senator Diane Feinstein backing internet gambling ban

While Feinstein is not part of the state senate and cannot be a part of state policy, her clout in Washington DC and in California cannot be denied, and she would make for a very powerful ally for Sheldon Adelson and other anti-gambling advocates.

We’ll have to wait and see what Feinstein’s level of commitment to this endeavor is, but she did co-sign on Senator Lindsey Graham’s Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill.

If you missed it, here are the particulars on what Senator Lindsey Graham and Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced.

California iGaming Barometer

The barometric pressure is dropping this week, but no need for alarm just yet, as not one but two factors are complicating California’s proposed online poker bills.

There is of course the current rift forming over the possible inclusion of PokerStars should any “bad actor” clause be removed from the bill, and then there is the curious case of Senator Diane Feinstein backing the Adelson bill to ban online gambling.

This is the first week since the bills were introduced that I have pulled back on the reigns slightly, although I’m not quite ready to go from bullish to bearish on California online poker just yet.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

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