California

PokerStars Announces California Online Poker Software Deal with Morongo Tribe, Three LA Card Rooms

PokerStars parent Rational Group and four likely participants in a future intrastate California online poker market have announced an agreement through which Rational Group would provide the online-poker software and hardware platform for players on the four entities’ sites.  The four are the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three non-tribal, Los Angeles-area card rooms — Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino and the Bicycle Casino.

CaliforniaEach of the four were previously identified as being in negotiations with PokerStars, with those negotiations becoming a primary point of contention with a separate collection of California tribal nations who have backed legislation seeking to ban PokerStars / Rational involvement in California through a “bad actor” provision.

The release of a statement confirming the deal between Rational and the four would-be Cali online-poker providers occurred literally as an ongoing California state legislative hearing was in progress, a hearing brought forth in the California Assembly by the primary sponsor of the bill containing the provisions designed to block PokerStars, Rep. Reggie Jones-Sawyer.

The agreement would take effect only if California formally authorizes online poker, which is itself far from a certainty, but confirms the deep divisions between the opposing pro-online-poker factions in California that must be resolved before any such proposal becomes law.

The press release indirectly makes a counterattack against some of the tribal nations who have vilified PokerStars in public statements in recent weeks.  One of the talking points in the presser, regarding the legislative interests of those involved in the agreement, is to “reject attempts by special interests to use the legislature to restrict competition and pick ‘winners and losers.’”

The deal between Rational Group and the four would-be online-poker site providers “formally ties the organizations together in a long-term arrangement to promote legislation that authorizes and regulates intrastate real-money online poker in California and thereafter to all necessary licenses and other approvals to offer online poker under the new State-regulated system.”

. . . . .

The complete text of the press release issued a short while ago by the parties involved in the agreement:

Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California’s Largest Card Clubs and PokerStars Announce Agreement to Offer Online Poker in California When Legislation is Passed

Legislation should fully protect the interests of consumers and the State, but should not be abused to artificially create a competitive advantage for a select few

Sacramento, CA, April 23, 2014 – The Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California’s (and the world’s) three largest card clubs – the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino and the Bicycle Casino – and The Rational Group, which owns and operates PokerStars, announced today that once California enacts legislation authorizing intrastate online poker, PokerStars will serve as the subcontractor providing the online poker platform and related services for a real-money online poker website to be licensed, owned and operated by an entity owned by the Tribe and the card clubs. This will give Californians access to the world’s largest and most popular online poker brand in a safe and locally-regulated environment. The organizations will work together to advocate for legislation that extends California’s tough, long-established gaming regulations to include intrastate online poker and thus ensure stringent consumer protection, consumer choice and maximum revenue for the state.

“We’re pleased to announce our agreement with these established and proven organizations that represent millions of California poker players,” Morongo Band of Mission Indians Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said. “We’re confident that, together, we can offer a safe, secure, high-quality online poker experience that brings financial benefits to California while providing the highest level of accountability, choice, service and protection for consumers.”

The agreement formally ties the organizations together in a long-term arrangement to promote legislation that authorizes and regulates intrastate real-money online poker in California and thereafter to all necessary licenses and other approvals to offer online poker under the new State-regulated system.

In announcing the agreement, the coalition established a set of guiding principles that it considers essential elements of any legislation to authorize intrastate online poker:

  •  Extend California’s Strict Consumer Protections and High Standards of Accountability to Intrastate Real-Money Online Poker.
  •  Ensure that California and Californians Benefit From State-Authorized Online Poker.
  •  Require Stringent Regulatory Vetting of Operators and Subcontractors Before Authorizing Licenses, Using the Same Proven Statutory Suitability Criteria that Have Served California Well for Nearly Two Decades.
  •  Reject Attempts by Special Interests to Use the Legislature to Restrict Competition and Pick “Winners and Losers.”

“Efforts by a select few interests to rewrite longstanding and effective policy in order to gain a competitive market advantage or to lock out specific companies is not in the best interests of consumers or the state and will be vigorously opposed by our coalition, online poker players and many others,” Chairman Martin added.

Speaking on behalf of the three card clubs, attorney Keith Sharp said, “As operators of the world’s largest card clubs, we are excited to join Morongo and PokerStars to provide California players with familiar brands to choose from in a well-regulated online poker experience. California has a long history and deep expertise in regulating live poker and we look forward to working with legislators and our industry colleagues to pass a bill that enhances competition and consumer protection, while providing the state Gambling Control Commission and state Department of Justice with the regulatory tools, staff and other resources needed to apply their expertise in vetting and assessing the suitability of prospective operators and subcontractors, and providing strict ongoing regulatory oversight.”

Guy Templer, Group Director of Strategy and Business Development for the Rational Group said, “PokerStars has a great history with California poker players, who want us in the market. We are the worldwide leader in regulated online poker and hold more national licenses than any other operator. We look forward to bringing our best practices in responsible gaming, online security, e-commerce, protection of players’ funds and game integrity to the California market.”

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