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PokerStars and Friends Launch California iPoker Coalition

A PokerStars-led coalition including two California tribal casinos and three large Los Angeles-area cardrooms has launched a consumer-oriented coalition designed to promote an open and fair market for any future regulated California online poker.

Californians4ipoker-logoCalled Californians for Responsible iPoker, the group includes, along with PokerStars, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and the Commerce, Bicycle and Hawaiian Gardens cardrooms.  All five tribal-gaming groups and cardrooms have previously reached agreements with PokerStars to use Stars’ popular online-poker software in the event California online poker is regulated and PokerStars itself is approved to participate in the state’s future market.

The launching of Californians for Responsible iPoker counters a recent attack ad against PokerStars launched by California’s Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.  The Viejas radio spot launched several misrepresentations against PokerStars, calling the now-Amaya-owned international giant a company of “con men” and “scam artists.”  The Viejas are part of a hardline tribal coalition seeking to block participation in any future California iPoker market by several potential competitors, including PokerStars.

The launching of Californians for Responsible iPoker takes a much higher road, and attempts to capitalize on PokerStars’ considerable brand reputation with consumers.  Four years after the pre-Amaya version of PokerStars left the US market, the company and site retains considerable recognition and goodwill among former US-based online poker players.

The group (with its new Internet presence at Californians4ipoker.com) includes a call to action to Californian residents, who can register to receive updates.  In return, PokerStars will be able to demonstrate in state-level hearings the general consumer respect for both itself as a company and for the well-regulated and protected open-market policies the group promotes.

As for those policies, here’s a “Statement of Principles” that the coalition has published:

California’s Marketplace Should Be Inclusive So Consumers Have Choice and Access to Trusted Online Poker Brands.

  • Experiences in other regulated environments have demonstrated that the most successful marketplaces are inclusive and provide consumers access to a variety of trusted, well regulated choices.
  • Legislation authorizing iPoker in California should do the same: establish a vibrant, competitive, fully inclusive marketplace with choices for consumers and strong consumer protections; strict oversight and regulation of operators and licensees; and a financial return for the state.
  • After more than six years of failed attempts in California, it is clear that stakeholders must reach substantial consensus in order for any bill to pass.
  • We must abandon the failed, divisive politics of the past that motivated anti-competitive and likely unconstitutional legislative proposals specifically intended to exclude one of the most successful and well-regulated iPoker service provider from California’s market.
  • We must support legislation that allows California’s existing licensed gaming providers – including tribes, card rooms, and others — to participate in the marketplace after stringent regulatory vetting for suitability.

​​Extend California’s Strict Consumer Protections and High Standards of Accountability to Intrastate Real-Money Online Poker.

  • Legislation should ensure safe, secure and regulated access to real-money online poker in California. 
  • Consistent with existing regulations for brick-and-mortar casinos, the California Gambling Control Commission and the state Department of Justice should have authority to ensure the integrity of consumer accounts, security of consumer personal data, accountability of the games, the ability to curb fraud or cheating by players, and other responsibilities necessary to maximize integrity of the games.
  • Licensees must demonstrate the ability to protect and safeguard vulnerable consumers, especially educating and assisting problem gamblers and excluding underage players.
  • Licensees should pay for the cost of regulation.

Ensure that California and Californians Benefit from State-Authorized Online Poker.

  • Real-money online poker could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for California each year — funds that now are going overseas, and that could be used for essential programs like public schools, public safety, healthcare, roads, and social services. The legislation should include a state tax component assuring that California and Californians will benefit from state-authorized, real-money online poker.
  • Authorizing legislation should create a vibrant, safe and competitive marketplace that gives players a choice of operators and innovative marketing promotions that responsibly grow the market and maximize state revenues.

Require Stringent Regulatory Vetting of Operators and Service Providers Before Authorizing Licenses, Using the Same Proven Statutory Suitability Criteria that Have Served California Well for Nearly Two Decades.

  • Legislation should subject applicants for online poker licenses to the same rigorous statutory suitability and licensing standards that already apply to existing gambling establishments.
  • This means that before a license is issued, a thorough investigation must be completed by the California Gambling Control Commission – which has been a strong gambling regulator for the last 17 years – and the state Department of Justice, looking into the past and present personal and business dealings of prospective website owners/operators, key employees and service providers. This is the same model adopted by New Jersey and Delaware for their online poker regulations.

Regulators Should Determine Suitability of Participants. Legislation Should Not be Used to Provide Competitive Advantages.

  • Suitability for participating in California’s online poker market should be determined the same way it is determined for brick and mortar establishments, solely by the regulators, not the Legislature, and without mandating the use of exclusionary criteria that are arbitrary and likely unconstitutional.

  • Legislation should not be used as a vehicle to limit competition, restrict consumer choice, or to provide competitive advantages to a select few.

The coalition has also published a list of talking points that briefly summarize the group’s core beliefs.  Those include:

  • Promoting a “a well-protected, responsible iPoker environment” in California;
  • Keeping players’ deposits safe through the use of regulated and segregated accounts;
  • Keeping underage gamblers from participating on future California iPoker sites;
  • Combating problem gambling by implementing “the introduction of strict deposit limits, self-imposed buy-in limits, and the facility to instantly activate ‘cooling off’ periods”;
  • Calling for transparent and open regulation by California’s state gaming officials;
  • Implementing state-of-the-art geolocation tracking to ensure California’s future online poker is truly intrastate only, and not accessible to outside players;
  • Generating “hundreds of millions of dollars” in new tax revenue for the state;
  • Creating thousands of new jobs in California; and,
  • Creating a “halo effect” that will also result in increased business and revenue for the state’s land-based casinos and card rooms.

Initial consumer response to the coalition’s debut and initial outreach has been highly positive.  Opponents of PokerStars, including the Viejas tribal nation, have yet to acknowledge the new coalition’s consumer-based agenda.

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