At Least One Group in California Really Wants PokerStars

Written By Steve Ruddock on June 11, 2014
California Says PokerStars Is Good

According to a poll of 1,200 online poker players in California conducted by the Poker Players Alliance, PokerStars has a favorability rating somewhere in between puppies and sunshine. The poll results were first reported by

The PPA’s poll (which is almost certainly from a very biased pool of PPA members – more on this later) has 82% of respondents ranking their experience at PokerStars as very good to excellent, with a slightly higher percentage (84%) feeling PokerStars treated US players fairly.

Perhaps the most telling data comes from the question: Do you think PokerStars should be licensed in California? The results were about as near a consensus as you can get in a poll, with 95% of respondents saying yes.

Take these results with a grain of salt though, much like you would a Sheldon Adelson backed poll that finds there is little public support for online gambling expansion. A poll can be finagled to say whatever you want it to say, and with these types of favorability numbers it’s likely we are looking at a very skewed sample of Californians.

Without seeing the methodology and how random the polling research was, as well as the particular phrasing of the questions, it’s hard to put too much stock into the results.

That being said, with the results so far skewed toward the positive it would be highly unlikely that even if the results are skewed it’s almost a certainty that a majority of respondents would still respond in the affirmative as to their experience with PokerStars and whether they deserve a shot at a license.

California’s online poker climate

The poll comes amidst the backdrop of the recently proposed “unified” bill being pushed by a coalition of 12 California tribes that would keep PokerStars out of the market entirely through the implementation of a Bad Actor Clause, barring all companies from receiving a California online poker license if they accepted wagers from US customers after December 31, 2006.

You can read more about this new bill here and here. And you can see PokerStars and their allies respond to the proposed bill here.

This contentious atmosphere has online poker’s future in California up in the air, as both the coalition of 13 tribes as well as PokerStars contingent that includes the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three California card rooms, Commerce, The Bicycle, and Hawaiian Gardens, are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to who should decide the fate of Stars, regulators or legislators.

It will be interesting to see if the PokerStars’ faction can use this new polling data to apply pressure on the 13 tribes, or on lawmakers who will have the final say on whether or not a bad actor clause is included in the final bill. It’s hard to argue with something that is polling at 95%.

PokerStars hogging the headlines

It’s safe to say that PokerStars has usurped the entire debate over online poker in California, which I suppose is both good and bad.

It’s good in the sense that it seems like online poker is inevitable in the state, and that without the current PokerStars situation we might already have an online poker bill. But at the same time it’s acting as a distraction, and perhaps covering up other underlying issues that could also derail online poker in the Golden State.

We could eventually see the PokerStars hashed out and then discover there is another issue (race tracks for instance) that derail the process.

Potential fallout for PokerStars

The final point I’ll make is what this debate could do to PokerStars legacy in the hearts and minds of players, especially among the 84% of Californians who feel the company has done right by them up to this point. Right now PokerStars can do no wrong in most players minds, but that could change.

If online poker talks in California once again comes to an impasse and PokerStars is seen as responsible for the failure I wonder how these same respondents will feel about the company?

It will be hard to hold the company in the same esteem if you feel they are the reason (or one of the main reasons) that you’re unable to play regulated online poker.

Essentially, PokerStars and everyone else who has gotten involved in this debate in California has stuck their necks out, and if the bill fails a few are likely to get lopped off Marie Antoinette style.

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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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