PokerStars, the biggest online poker website in the world had formed a coalition consisting of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, two tribal groups, the Bicycle Casino and the Commerce Casino to push for the legalization of online poker in California. The coalition received support from the Poker Player Alliance (PPA) and made significant progress in pushing Assembly member Adam Gray’s iPoker bill through the Assembly.
However the bill was opposed by a tribal coalition who wanted the government to ban PokerStars from operating in California due to the fact that the company functioned in the state as a grey listed operator when poker was banned and accumulated a player database during this period of time which would give the company an unfair advantage over other competitors. The tribal coalition informed Assemblyman Gray that they would back his bill only if it contained sanctions on PokerStars.
PokerStars controls nearly 70 percent of the global online poker market and is reported to have a player list that is over 100 million. The company currently operates in New Jersey and is looking to gain access to the California market. There were initial discussions of imposing a $20 million fine on PokerStars and allowing the company to operate but in the end the tribal coalition was not willing to accept the proposal. They want PokerStars to be banned for the next five years and it appears that Gray has decided to finally give into the tribal coalition.
The PokerStars coalition and the PPA have expressed disappointment over Gray’s decision and stated that when they look at the proposed amendments they find that the five year ban actually works out to a lifetime ban. Both groups stated that if Gray decided to add these amendments to bill AB 2863 they would oppose the bill as the amendments were violating a number of serious constitutional issues.
In a statement, John Pappas, executive director of the PPA said “We are deeply disappointed that Chairman Adam Gray has chosen to play politics at the behest of special interests. The proposed amendments threaten to doom the iPoker legislation for which we and our members have advocated for years.”
The coalition also stated they were the first and biggest supporters of bill AB 2863 and had fought hard for the bill to be passed. Due to the sudden changes, they would have no choice but to oppose the bill. Gaming analysts estimate that the iPoker market in California will generate around $400 million each year.