PokerStars Ramps Up Lobbying Efforts in California

PokerStars*Update 5/19/2015: 

The PokerStars demo and Play-For-Fun online tournament with pros Daniel Negreanu and Jason Somerville is being moved from the Sheraton to the Legislative Office Building, Hearing Rm. 100.

The press briefing time slot remains the same, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

The “open house” from 10 a.m. – noon has been canceled for now.

Original post follows:

It appears PokerStars is ready to become more proactive in the California online poker debate, as the company has announced they will be hosting a live demonstration with two of the most popular poker players in the world, Daniel Negreanu and Jason Somerville (who also happen to be Team PokerStars Pros), at the Sheraton Grand Hotel  in Sacramento on May 21st.

This represents a new approach by PokerStars as they continue to push for online poker legalization in California.

The demonstration (a play-for-fun demonstration where you can take on Negreanu and Somerville for “bragging rights” only) is designed to give people a better understanding of what regulated online poker on PokerStars would look like, and perhaps more importantly, what types of consumer protections the company has in place.

In a press release the PokerStars/Morongo coalition emphasized this point:

“While the room is open to the public from 10-noon, we are setting aside the 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. slot for media so PokerStars representatives can describe in more detail consumer protections and fraud detection measures in place on the PokerStars site and answer questions. We are looking to spend about 10 minutes on the presentation (depending on questions), then move to online play.”

The demonstration will take place on the same day as the California Gaming Conference at the nearby Masonic Temple in Sacramento; a synchronization of events that should help both gatherings.

What’s notable about this demo is this is the first time PokerStars has undertaken such a public initiative to drive the online poker conversation in California since announcing their partnerships over a year ago.

PokerStars adds yet another hurdle in CA

As online poker talks heated up in 2014 PokerStars threw what can be best be described as an unintended monkey wrench into the wheels of California politics when they announced they had partnered with several of the biggest names in California gaming.

On the tribal front PokerStars teamed up with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, and chose the three largest card rooms in California for good measure: Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Bicycle Casino, and Commerce Casino.

Later, in late 2014, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians also joined the PokerStars coalition.

The formation of the PokerStars coalition led to the creation of an equally powerful coalition led by the Pechanga and Agua Caliente tribes, which led to a whole new round of gridlock – gridlock that has persisted into 2015 and shows no signs of letting up any time soon.

2015 offers some hope

Going into the year many felt 2015 would be California’s best chance to pass an online poker bill.

Early on it looked promising, as several tribes and corporations – the Rincon, Pala, and United Auburn tribes as well as Caesars Entertainment –  softened their opposition to not only PokerStars but racetracks.

Unfortunately, Pechanga and their remaining allies haven’t budged, and we are no closer in 2015 than we were in 2014, even with Adam Gray’s AB 431 passing through the Governmental Organization Committee.

What the demonstration can accomplish

It’s unlikely to change the hearts and minds of the tribes and gaming interests opposing PokerStars involvement, but the demonstration could have an impact on legislators unfamiliar with the topic, and perhaps on the public perception of PokerStars and online poker.

Winning over the public has been a new wrinkle in California in 2015.

With gaming interests in a perpetual stalemate some have moved the debate into the public arena. Something that may (stress, may) force the hands of lawmakers, even if certain gaming interests continue to oppose certain aspects of the online poker bill.

Rincon Chairman Bo Mazzetti penned a powerful op-ed that appeared in the San Diego Union-Times this past weekend calling on California to pass an online poker bill not for the tribes or gaming, but for the residents of California.

Mazzetti’s op-ed comes just a week after the LA Times editorial board came out in favor of online poker legalization.

The first movement on this front was’s #AllInCA campaign, a grassroots level campaign designed to get the public involved in the fight.

PokerStars demonstration will be a welcome continuation of this movement.

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