Back in June 2015, PokerStars launched Californians for Responsible iPoker in an attempt to promote iPoker regulation in the Golden State. Coupled with the lobbying group, PokerStars also began their “Let California Play!” PokerStars Pro Tour.
For the rest of the summer, PokerStars and its ambassadors traveled around to 11 card rooms and casinos to meet and greet players and have them advocate for regulated online poker.
Through the middle of last year, the group was active in the fight for regulation in California. Then all of a sudden, they went silent. What happened? Have Amaya and PokerStars finally decided to abandon ship in California or is the group merely on hiatus until regulatory efforts start making significant progress?
Nothing but Silence on All Fronts Since Mid-June 2016
For a year, PokerStars continued to use Californians for Responsible iPoker as a tool to get the message out to the masses, even when it seemed that passing a bill was a bit of a long shot.
Then about mid-June of last year, the group quit updating their site and their social media accounts have been silent. The last post on social media was on June 21 and their website hasn’t been updated since June 18.
What’s interesting about this cutoff is that it was well before efforts fell apart last summer. Last minute changes to the suitability language in AB 2863 forced PokerStars and the Poker Players Alliance to pull their support of the bill.
However, that was in August. What happened in June? Did Daniel Negreanu and PokerStars decide they no longer needed player support?
That seems a bit far-fetched, but it is a bit odd that they would quit pushing regulation at a key point in the process last year. Moreover, what about 2017?
Was This a Precursor of Amaya’s New Strategy?
It seems reasonable that PokerStars and Amaya would keep their lobbying group at least minimally operational if they were still planning to move forward with pursuing an online poker license in California.
The iPoker bill presently on-deck in California is so uninspiring that some are assuming that legislators are punting on the matter in 2017. Could PokerStars be considering the same on California iPoker in general?
With recent revelations that the company is focusing less on poker and more on other gaming avenues, one has to wonder if PokerStars is planning to abandon their interests in California. If that were the case, it would make sense to let the group stay idle.
PokerStars No Longer Relying Exclusively on Poker, Embraces Sports Betting and Casino Gambling https://t.co/ajdVKnpOm7— The Daily Payoff (@TheDailyPayoff) April 7, 2017
The raid on the Bicycle Casino last week does not help matter for PokerStars. When then-CEO David Baazov was accused of insider trading, the bad actor debate in California re-erupted. While PokerStars had nothing to do with the federal raid on the Bike, they will probably still be deemed guilty by association.
Perhaps the Group Is Merely in Hiatus
An alternate theory to consider is that PokerStars is merely waiting until conditions are a bit more favorable to start using the group again. Should that happen, lawmakers will be forced to return to the drawing board to try again with another proposal, perhaps one that opens the door slightly for negotiation for PokerStars.
Amaya has to be realistic and look at the probability of a bill passing. If the state is virtually drawing dead to regulating iPoker, what’s the point of pouring resources into lobbying?
This may just be a simple hiatus by the company while they wait for legislators to come up with a more favorable proposal. After all, California is no longer the only potential option for the future of iPoker and iGaming in general, with states like New York and Pennsylvania likely to regulate the game in the next couple of years. While having the California market under the PokerStars umbrella would be nice, an interstate network including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York will do just fine as an alternative.