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Caesars, Amaya Confirm Online Gambling Lobbying Cooperation

Two North American gambling industry giants, Caesars Entertainment and Amaya Gaming, have confirmed that they are cooperating together in support of online-gambling legislative initiatives in the United States.  The cooperation was hinted at in comments made by a Caesars executive on Friday, and subsequently confirmed yesterday on both the Caesars and Amaya sides.

caesars-ent-logoLast Friday, Caesars Entertainment’s Executive Vice President, Jan Jones-Blackhurst, remarked to GamblingCompliance writer Chris Krafcik that the Amaya-owned PokerStars should duly be considered for licensing in New Jersey, where the online giant’s application for said license has undergone lengthy and unexplained delays.

Yesterday, in an update on the situation, Jones-Blackhurst confirmed increased cooperation between the two firms.  “[W]e need to focus on where our opposition really lies, and clearly it’s not Amaya and PokerStars. They are a strong ally in the space,” Jones-Blackhurst told Krafcik, in a GC update.

Separately, representatives of Amaya Gaming also confirmed the warming relationship between the two companies, which was explored in a weekend editorial here at FlushDraw.  Caesars and Amaya already possess a limited working partnership in New Jersey, but there had been years of prior conflict between Caesars and Stars, the online giant that Amaya acquired last summer.

amaya-gaming-logoThat conflict has been swept away as a result of Amaya’s introduction into the equation as PokerStars’ owner, with the two firms now working to expand the Caesars-Amaya relationship.  As PokerStars Director of Communications Eric Hollreiser told FlushDraw directly, “Amaya and Caesars have enjoyed a very good relationship and business partnership for a number of years. That has not changed since acquiring PokerStars. As part of our ongoing conversations we will work closely with Caesars to promote the US online gaming industry and support responsible legislation at the state and federal levels.”

Hollreiser’s and Jones-Blackhurst’s comments reaffirm the consensus opinion of earlier reports: The two giants will work together to counterract the lobbying push against online-gambling legalization being mounted by Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson himself returned to the news courtesy of an update today in the Las Vegas Sun.  In that cautionary tale, Sun beat reporter Amber Phillips warns that Adelson’s well-funded anti-gambling lobbyists may well gain the upper hand in Congress unless firms such as Caesars and Amaya and the online-gambling industry in general develop a quick-hitting message on the topic that generates well with lawmakers.  “Click your mouse and lose your house,” is an example of a catchy hook employed by Adelson’s anti-online lobbyists.  Phillips asserts the pro-online forces need similar hooks.

The Caesars-Amaya relationship, of course, extends not only to the federal debate, but to state-level initiatives as well.  Caesars’ ongoing relationship with the Rincon tribe of southern California may well be a reason why the Rincons softened their own stance last week regarding anti-PokerStars inclusions in the California online-poker bills currently being considered.

Caesars and Amaya, through their spokespeople, have expressed their approval and agreement in various statements.  The Rincon shift, though, comes amid a turbulent battle in the state.  Hollreiser, in commenting to FlushDraw, noted that “we’re encouraged by their recent statements.”  However, the hard-line stances and ongoing war of words presently going on in California mean the “bad actor” issue and other topics are far from resolved. “[C]learly,” noted Hollreiser, “important differences remain in our respective positions on these issues.”

The next level of debate at both the state and federal level is likely to occur when the various bills receive their first Congressional hearings.  California state assembly bills submitted by Mike Gatto and Reginald Jones-Sawyer await such discussion, as do the federal bills either already submitted or shortly to appear, the anti-online “RAWA” measures.  Those bills, funded by Adelson, are championed in the US House and Senate by Jason Chaffetz and Lindsey Graham, respectively.


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