PokerStars, Partners Issue Statement on Proposed California Online Poker Amendments

Yesterday’s surprise publishing of a new series of amendments to California’s current version of an online poker bill, AB 2863, continues to churn the waters.  Today, the “Tribal / Cardroom / PokerStars” coalition comprised of PokerStars parent Amaya snd several live-casino poker providers that would like to partner with the online giant have issued a joint statement on the new amendments.

Seal_of_California.svgHere’s the full (albeit brief) text of that statement:

Tribal/Cardroom/PokerStars Coalition Responds to New Online Poker Language in AB 2863 (Gray)

“We applaud Assemblymember Adam Gray for moving the ball forward on iPoker and addressing the final two key issues in his bill AB 2863. This is a step in the right direction and we look forward to working with him and bill co-author Assemblymember Frank Bigelow in the coming weeks to get AB 2863 across the finish line.

“Our coalition has long-supported a competitive online poker marketplace in California that offers choices and strong consumer protections; rigid suitability standards; strict oversight of operators and licensees; and provides a financial return to the state.

“Our coalition commends Assemblyman Gray and his leadership both last year and this year to authorize and regulate online poker. For too long this issue has left consumers vulnerable and we are hopeful that 2016 brings closure, and a safe, regulated and competitive marketplace.”

The above quotes are not attributed to any spokesman or corporate entity, but instead are attributed to the coalition itself, which includes the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, California’s three largest card clubs – Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino and Bicycle Casino – and of course Amaya Inc. which owns and operates PokerStars.  A the presser duly notes, these groups joined together in a formal agreement in 2014 to work jointly to promote legislation that authorizes and regulates intrastate real-money online poker in California.

The only other new tweak present in the brief statement is the present of CA Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-5th) as a new co-author on the bill.  That possibly replaces original bill (AB 431) co-sponsor Reggie Jones-Sawyer, though that point needs continuing clarification.  Whether or not the newly proposed amendments originated through Rep. Bigelow’s office remains unclear.

As previously noted here at FlushDraw, the new amendments focus on a clarificati0n of any possible “bad actor” language in the bill, along with financial specifications that essentially ensure that only the biggest corporate players will be able to contemplate the investment plunge.  Yet the bad-actor debate remains the metaphorical 800-lb. gorilla in the room, dominating all else.

These latest amendments appear designed to break that ongoing legislative stalemate, with the incorporation of an end-of-2011 cutoff date that would free Stars from any presumptive (and possibly unconstitutional) declaration of failing a suitability standard, while still ensuring that the state can continue to seek to block offshore operators who might offer such services or similar offering, such as online sports betting, even today.  The proposed amendments also align with the viewpoint proffered in the famed 2011 US Attorney General’s Office opinion by Eric Holder that clarified and limited the reach of the 1961 Wire Act.

It will, of course, be interesting to see how the Pechanga-led opposing coalition reacts to the newly proposed amendments.  That hardline group, which has attempted to position PokerStars as an evil intruder to further its own financial desires, has yet to issue a public statement on these latest developments.

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