The protectionist and mainly tribal attempts to keep Pokerstars out of any Californian online poker market that might be approved continued to be a hot topic this week, with a lawyer representing parties with whom the online poker giant is negotiating speaking out.
Attorney Keith Sharp, who represents the Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens and Bicycle Club poker rooms based in Los Angeles, said that opposition from some tribal groups would not deter them from discussing possibilities with Pokerstars.
The three major card rooms are allied with the powerful Marongo Band of Mission Indians in seeking to achieve legalised intrastate online poker in California, clearly with a view to dominating the business that will flow from such an achievement.
Tribal groups like the California Tribal Business Alliance are insisting on stringent “bad actor” provisions in any legislation aimed at legalising online poker in the state, apparently aimed at keeping Pokerstars out in the cold as a potentially dangerous competitor.
Two competing proposals for legalising online poker in California are currently before the legislature – Sen. Lou Correa’s SB 1366 and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s AB 2291; each have their supporters and detractors (see previous reports).
Addressing the “bad actor” issue this week, Sharp suggested that there was no need to enshrine bad actor provisions in legislation; the highly experienced California Gambling Control Commission was more than capable of taking the right decisions on who should be licensed, and who should not.
It is a view that echoes a similar statement issued by Pokerstars late last week after it was attacked by tribal groups on the bad actor question.
Sharp pointed out that in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware licensing was the purview of the regulators, who made judgment calls and decisions on any bad actor penalties that may be appropriate.
“We have tremendously competent regulators in California. Leave it to the people who know what they’re doing to look at each case individually,” said Sharp, adding that imposing arbitrary bad actor cut-offs such as the date the UIGEA was passed was not only anti-competitive, but disregarded the considerable investigative expertise available through the state regulator to assess the suitability of all applicants.
The attorney went on to highlight the integrity and fairness of Pokerstars in its global operations as the world’s biggest online poker operator, giving as an example its conduct in the wake of the Black Friday closures, when the company proved to be the only one that ensured its players’ account balances were safe, and subsequently paid not only its players, but a substantial Department of Justice settlement that involved Full Tilt Poker players as well.
“PokerStars has an impeccable record and is licensed in more jurisdictions than any other site,” Sharp said. “Poker players want to play on PokerStars again because they trust them.”