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PPA Releases Pro-PokerStars California Online Poker Consumer Study

Would-be California online poker players would highly favor a future regulated Golden State market that included former American favorite PokerStars, according to the results of a brief questionnaire released recently by the Poker Players Alliance.

PokerStarsThe e-mail survey was sent out last fall to what a brief PPA statement on the survey deems as “leading activists,” but which may refer to PPA members in good standing who have enrolled recently or who have paid personal memberships, who are also California residents.

Among the questions asked were leading statements such as, “Do you agree PokerStars demonstrates integrity to its customers?” and “Do you think PokerStars should be eligible to be licensed should online gaming become authorized in your state?”

The results were released by the PPA as PokerStars finds its bid to become a software provider for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three major Los Angeles card rooms — Commerce, Bicycle and Hawaiian Gardens.  The deals with PokerStars would have real effect only if California formally approves and regulates intrastate online poker within its borders.

However, PokerStars has been targeted by “bad actor” language inserted by rival California tribes into pending legislation.  Two bills currently before the California state legislature would preemptively block the UK-based giant, which served US customers from 2002 until 2011’s “Black Friday,” from participating in the California market.

The PPA’s involvement comes as the lobbying organization treads carefully around the California situation, seemingly unwilling to condemn several anti-player and anti-competition inclusions in the California bills currently being debated.  PokerStars’ primary funding of the PPA coffers for several years has long belied the PPA’s own claims of being a true “consumer” advocacy group.

Likewise, the study’s highly favorable numbers are likely to do little to quell PokerStars opponents, who fear the offshore giant’s formidable brand awareness.  Nonetheless, the study itself might give pause to legislators if presented repeatedly and meaningfully, perhaps reminding them that a “Consumer Protection” bill should actually pay more than lip service to what consumers actually want.

The study itself shows enthusiastic support for PokerStars, but given that a large percentage of the PPA’s million-plus membership was historically generated PokerStars freerolls, the study’s results carry no particular pretense of being impartial, nor a true-percentage representation of California’s poker-player beliefs.  The real truth is probably a bit more muted; Californians, like most online-poker players in US states, believe that PokerStars is superior to other previous and potential competition.

The six-question survey was sent to an undisclosed number of California poker players, with 1229 responses.  92% reported having played either for real or play money on PokerStars, while 82% rated their experience playing on PokerStars as either good (4) or excellent (5) on a 1-to-5 scale.

A similar 82% of respondents voted favorably on the question regarding PokerStars and perceive integrity, with another 16% opting for neutral; only 2% viewed PokerStars negatively in regards to integrity toward its customers.

The 82% favorable figure also came into play on a reaffirming question regarding PokerStars perceived treatment of players during the years it served the US market: 57% of the respondents rated the site excellent (5) in that regard.

The largest affirmative ratings, however, came on the final two questions, which were forward-looking statements regarding PokerStars hoped-for role in any new California online poker question.  Question #5 was the “Do you think PokerStars should be eligible to be licensed should online gaming become authorized in your state?”  Survey respondents resoundingly agreed, with 95% saying “Yes,” only 2% saying “No.”  The others had no preference.

Similarly, the question, “As a player, would you like to have the option to play on an Internet poker web site operated by PokerStars or supported by PokerStars software?”  95% again said “Yes,” with another 2% saying “No,” and the rest with no opinion or not responding.  The “Yes” rate was marginally higher than on the eligibility question, despite the similar numbers, due to more of the respondents making a choice on that specific question.

The survey results mean little, though it does demonstrate that PokerStars’ interests in the state might be well-served by a true grassroots consumer drive focusing on the state’s legislature and the two bills currently under consideration.  Will PokerStars, which already employs a California public-relations group, considering the approach?  The current uncertain situation in the state gives rise to all sorts of possibilities.




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