PokerStars Unhappy with new California Online Poker Bill

California Assemblyman Mike Gatto has drafted an online poker bill called “AB 9” that he believes will finally bring all sides together on the matter. And this has created some definite excitement for US iPoker because California has a population of over 38.3 million people and the world’s sixth-largest economy.

Unfortunately, Gatto’s belief that his legislation will unite all sides doesn’t seem to be quite true on the PokerStars coalition’s side, which includes Amaya Gaming (PokerStars’ owner), the Morongo and San Manuel tribes, and the Bike, Commerce and Hawaiian Gardens card rooms. That said, let’s take a closer look at Gatto’s poker bill and also discuss why the PokerStars group doesn’t like it.

Bad actor elements still present

The key reason why the card rooms and Stars’ parent company, the Rational Group, didn’t like previous efforts to legalize iPoker in California is because of the “bad actor” clause, which seeks to shut out companies that previously violated the UIGEA. Last year, Rational and all its assets were sold to Amaya Gaming, a legitimate company that helps distance Stars from the bad actor status. Plus the group picked up some powerful tribal allies in recent months.

As for Gatto’s bill, a lot of elements are still the same, including licensing requirements and fees as well as the market being limited to tribal casinos and card rooms. What’s changed is the stance on bad actors, which previously stated that companies accepting internet bets after December 31st, 2006, were excluded from California.

The new language on bad actors seems to both limit and open the door for PokerStars’ entrance into the market. Here’s a look at some key sections from the new bill:

(2)(b)(10) Has purchased or acquired the covered assets of any entity described in paragraph (8) or (9), and will use any of those assets in connection with Internet poker in the state.

(7) The commission shall waive the application of paragraph(10) of subdivision (b) for an applicant who demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence any of the following: […]

(7)(C)(i) The applicant’s use of the covered assets in connection with intrastate Internet gaming will not adversely affect the integrity of, or undermine public confidence in, intrastate Internet poker or otherwise pose a threat to the public interest or to the effective regulation and control of intrastate Internet poker.

Why Amaya/PokerStars still dislikes Gatto’s bill

As the above excerpts show, AB 9 does give PokerStars and other post-UIGEA poker sites a chance to enter California. However, a mere chance is not what new owner Amaya Gaming wants. Their coalition released a statement that details how they’re still committed to getting iPoker legalized in the Golden State by 2015. But they also discuss their problem with the legislation through the following excerpt:

Unfortunately, AB 9 is a rehash of previously unsuccessful proposals. Any bill that seeks to establish artificial competitive advantages for some, while denying Californians the best online poker experiences, will only serve to divide the community and will be opposed by our coalition.

This early draft of Gatto’s bill definitely doesn’t sit well with the PokerStars coalition, which wields a fair amount of power. So hopefully the assemblyman chooses to rework his legislation and give Stars a better chance of getting in so California online poker finally becomes a reality.

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