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PokerStars Notes California Online Poker Bills’ Demise

PokerStars and its California partners have issued a statement in the wake of last week’s collapse of legislation in the state that sought to formally regulate California online poker.  The withdrawal of two bills in the state’s legislature last week ensures that no Golden State i-poker legislation will be passed there until 2015 at the earliest.

The statement, issued by the PokerStars-contracted California PR firm Bicker, Castillo & Fairbanks, was sent directly to FlushDraw and other select outlets.  The statement includes softer, more conciliatory language than previous communications regarding the existing California online poker bills.

PokerStars LogoBoth bills which were under consideration in California, Senate Bill 1366 and Assembly Bill 2291, targeted PokerStars specifically (though not by name) through the inclusion of a “bad actor” clause.  PokerStars has vehemently challenged the presence of the bad-actor inclusion on constitutional grounds.  PokerStars’ parent company, Oldford Group, was recently acquired by Canada’s Amaya Gaming.

PokerStars remains in an active partnership with four entities with future plans to offer online poker in California.  Stars’ partners include the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three major Los Angeles cardrooms — the Commerce Hotel Casino, the Bicycle Casino, and the Hawaiian Gardens Casino.  All of PokerStars’ continuing partners co-signed the statement and are expected to continue as partners of the company.

The statement from the informal coalition included quotes from representatives of PokerStars, the Morongo nation, and a lawyer representing the interests of the three LA cardrooms.  Keith Sharp, the attorney representing the rooms, specifically thanked legislators Lou Correa and Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the lead sponsors of the two California bills.  The acknowledgement came despite both the nearly identical Correa and Jones-Sawyer bills including the objectionable bad-actor clause, which was inserted by a rival tribal coalition which helped draft the bills.

According to published reports, Jones-Sawyer plans to introduce another bill for consideration during the state’s 2015 legislative year.  Correa is ineligible to return to Sacramento due to term limits, meaning any i-poker bill would need a new Senate sponsor.

The complete PokerStars statement follows:

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Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California’s Largest Card Clubs and PokerStars React to News that Internet Poker Legislation on Hold Until Next Year

Sacramento, CA – Today, the coalition representing the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California’s three largest card clubs – the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino and the Bicycle Casino – and PokerStars, the world’s most popular and most regulated Internet poker provider, responded to the news that legislation to authorize internet poker in California was going to be put on hold until 2015.

“We have been working on this issue for five years now and while we were optimistic that a suitable bill would move forward in 2014, we’re in this for the long haul and we’d rather do it right than have a bad bill,” Morongo Band of Mission Indians Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said, speaking on behalf of the coalition. “Clearly the issues surrounding the latest bills that sought to unconstitutionally limit competition, place prohibitions on race tracks, and rewrite longstanding, successful state policy regarding California’s oversight of gaming proved insurmountable for this session. We will continue to work with our partners, legislators, state regulators and other California tribes on developing future iPoker legislation that meets constitutional tests and provides much needed consumer protections to California’s 2 million online poker players.”

Speaking on behalf of the three card clubs, attorney Keith Sharp said, “Any legislation authorizing Internet poker should ensure that we create the most successful market possible that provides consumers access to the trusted brands they want in a strongly regulated environment. We want to thank Senator Correa, Assembly Member Jones-Sawyer and all of the legislators and stakeholders who have put in the time and effort to get us to this point. We remain committed to continued discussions in the interim and next session.”

Guy Templer, Group Director of Strategy and Business Development for the Rational Group, which operates PokerStars,said, “PokerStars has a great history with regulators and governments all over the world, and we look forward to working with lawmakers and regulators in California to help structure a market that provides robust competition and strong regulatory oversight. We look forward to bringing our best practices in responsible gaming, online security, e-commerce, protection of players’ funds and game integrity to any new California market.”

The card clubs, PokerStars and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians earlier this year joined together in a formal agreement to work jointly to promote legislation that authorizes and regulates intrastate real-money online poker in California, and thereafter to work together to seek necessary licenses and other approvals to offer online poker under the new State-regulated system.

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