During their recent online poker hearing in front of the California State Assembly’s Governmental Organization Committee the attendees went out of their way to not mention PokerStars by name. A stark contrast to Thursday’s iGaming Conference hosted by Capitol Weekly where PokerStars was not only mentioned, it was the chief topic of conversation throughout the day.
PokerStars and their allies are resolute
There is no longer any doubt that the Morongo Band of Mission Indians is willing to go all-in with PokerStars.
Morongo Chairman Robert Martin stated in no uncertain terms that they would not support a bill that contained “bad actor” language. Martin then went a step further, overtly implying that if the bill does contain a “bad actor” clause it will continue to fight it, and will likely wind up in court:
Martin: The determination of PokerStars’ suitability is a job for regulators. Legislate that and the whole thing will end up in court #CCOG
— Chris Grove (@OPReport) May 22, 2014
After making the case for PokerStars inclusion, Martin went on to call other operators bad actors, pointing out that PokerStars only offered online poker in California, unlike other sites who do not fall under the current description of a “bad actor” even though they offered sportsbetting and casino games in the past.
PokerStars case was also made by Keith Sharp, an attorney representing the consortium of card-rooms that have also partnered with PokerStars, the Commerce, the Bicycle, and Hawaiian Gardens Casinos.
Sharp pointed out that New Jersey left the decision up to the regulators, although he stopped short of mentioning PokerStars failed to receive New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement approval – PokerStars license application review has been suspended for up to two years.
Martin was later asked what the Morongo Band of Mission Indians would do if they got their way but PokerStars was found unsuitable by regulators, to which he answered (paraphrasing from Chris Grove on Twitter): “We’ll be the first ones to tell them to go back to the Isle of Man. It would be disruptive, but we’d deal with it.”
PokerStars opposition is equally resolute
Pechanga Chairman Mark Maccaro was unable to attend the conference, so the counter argument was made by Jeff Grubbe, the Chairman of the Agua Caliente Band, who called the December 31, 2006 UIGEA “bad actor” date a brightline; a clear date of when the industry went in two different directions in the United States.
Grubbe is of the opinion that a bad actor clause will be a part of any bill that makes it through legislator. He later stated, “I’m fairly confident [a bill will get done by August] but you never know.”
Unfortunately, Martin was not as optimistic, saying that if bad actor language is part of a final draft, “I think we’re going to have real issues with that.”
Can an online poker bill get done in California this year? Most people feel they are closer than ever, but without a resolution to the PokerStars conundrum it will be difficult to cross the finish line in 2014.
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