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As Casino Launch Nears PokerStars Strengthens Responsible Gaming Policies

After the polarizing announcement that sports betting and casinos games were on their way, PokerStars, by way of their Responsible Gaming Manager Jeanne David, unveiled a new responsible gaming code to help assuage any lingering fears players may have about the company’s new non-poker offerings.

“PokerStars has a long and proud history of integrating responsible gaming features into its software,” David stated in her blog post last week. “The casino and sports betting offerings will be no different.”

The updated responsible gaming code includes three key changes that specifically address the addition of sports betting and casino games:

1. The ability to opt out of all casino and sportsbook marketing through the PokerStars’ client, as well as the option to unsubscribe from E-Mails.

2. The ability to make the casino games and sports betting portions of the client completely invisible.

3. The ability to set stakes and limits for PokerStars’ casino games.

As David explains:

If you want your relationship with PokerStars to be ‘all poker, all the time,’ that’s exactly what it will be. If you want to play our casino games, you’ll be able to customize your experience to fit within the parameters you desire.”

Team PokerStars divided

Interestingly, the responsible gaming post by David came just two days before Victoria Coren-Mitchell resigned as a Team PokerStars Pro over concerns of the new direction the company was taking. Coren-Mitchell’s public resignation has been one of the most hotly debated topics over the past week, with virtually everyone applauding her principled stance, but a select few questioning her reasoning and conclusions.

Daniel Negreanu was one prominent player who came to PokerStars defense, which he offered up in a thoughtful blog post on his website.

In the post Negreanu said he respects and admires Coren’s decision, but at the same time stated:

I would personally feel like a hypocrite if I justified that it’s OK for me to take money from problem gamblers, but it’s not OK for the casino to do the same. If it’s wrong it’s wrong, no matter who profits. As much as we’d like to separate poker from gambling, poker played for money IS gambling. There will be some winners, and a vast majority of losers.”

In an interview with PokerNews’ Romanian “Grilled Fish” podcast (h/t to PokerNews/com’s Giovanni Angioni for publicizing the interview) this week, the face of PokerStars expanded on his thoughts on casino games:

:If people want to play craps online for money, if that’s what they choose to do, I am OK with that. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to say that it’s OK for some people to play poker and lose their money at the poker tables, but it is not ok for them to play craps and lose their money there.”;

Poker is gambling… backgammon is gambling. When you play for money, you are gambling — you can either win or lose. [Poker] is a form of gambling you can beat… but it is gambling. To say that we want to distance ourselves from gambling, it would be dishonest.”







I’d like to point out that problem gamblers make up only 2%-5% of the population (depending on the metrics you use), so the notion that it’s only problem gamblers sitting at slot machines and leaning over dice tables is simply not the reality. While both Negreanu and Coren both talk in terms of problem gamblers, it’s important to note that the vast majority of casino patrons play these games for entertainment purposes, and do so responsibly.

It should also be noted that these are not unregulated black market casino games, PokerStars will be adding online casino games that are licensed and regulated, just like brick & mortar casinos.

Poker community largely against casino games

The addition of sports betting, and more specifically casino games, was met with an altogether unexpected fervor by the poker community. Unexpected in that every other major online poker room has casino and/or sportsbook connections, not to mention that most poker rooms are located inside properties with games of chance – Coren herself admits to occasionally playing -EV games.

Still, the community was by and large disappointed that PokerStars was abandoning its poker-only business model. Most of the opposition can be traced to self-serving aims, as poker players were concerned the casino games would be the siren’s song that lured the fish away from the poker tables, but others had more altruistic reasons, such as Alex Dreyfus, who feared it may hurt poker’s standing as a game of skill.

In the end, I expect the opposition of casino games to die down as people realize the effect of casino games will have little noticeable impact on the poker tables.

A month after they are unveiled they will likely go unnoticed and uncommented upon by the current naysayers.

What makes me believe this?

888, partypoker, and other online poker rooms are not trailing PokerStars in terms of poker traffic because they also offer casino games. And it’s not casino games that are holding back New Jersey’s online poker rooms.



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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.