The acquisition of PokerStars by Amaya Gaming seems to be melting away opposition to the online gambling company entering a possible California online poker market. Caesars Entertainment officials are the latest to back PokerStars’ bid in the state.
Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of communication and government relations at Caesars Entertainment Corporation, told GamblingCompliance that PokerStars “should be considered for legalization in the U.S.”
Blackhurst also said Caesars needs “to focus on where our opposition really lies, and clearly it’s not Amaya and PokerStars. They are a strong ally in the space.”
That “opposition” may be a move to enact a federal ban on online gaming in Congress. A bill to outlaw online casino games in the U.S.—backed by Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson—has been re-introduced in Congress.
Reports say Caesars and PokerStars want to work together to oppose the ban.
Caesars had backed a proposed “bad actor” clause in any potential California online bill that was seen as blocking PokerStars due to its past problems with the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ shut down PokerStars in the U.S. in 2011 for accepting U.S. players’ bets after passage of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcemant Act. PokerStars did not admit wrongdoing, but paid a $700 million fine to settle the lawsuit.
The company has also lobbied against the licensing of PokerStars in New Jersey—where there is no bad-actor clause—where the license investigation continues.
But last year’s sale of the company to Amaya divested the company from any PokerStars executives involved with the DOJ’s lawsuit against the company.
Caesars and Amaya clearly have a better relationship.
“We no longer are seeking a bad actor clause in any state,” Blackhurst said in an email to the Las Vegas Review Journal. “With the purchase by Amaya, we believe PokerStars is cleansed of the taint, and regulatory approval should be left to the regulators.”
PokerStars has an agreement to operate online gaming in California with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, as well as three Los Angeles-area card rooms.
Blackhurst’s comments also come after the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, Caesars’ online and land-based partner in California, as well as the Pala Band of Mission Indians and the United Auburn Indian Community also softened their attitude toward PokerStars.
The three tribes had been among about 13 tribes in the state pushing for a strong bad-actor clause that likely would block PokerStars in the state.
The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians remain strongly opposed to any bill that would permit the entry of PokerStars, however, and their support is seen as vital to any online poker bill passing in California.