PokerStars table

Amaya CEO Confident of PokerStars‘ Return to California

Earlier this month, California ended its 2015 legislative session without producing a successful online poker bill. That reality is a blow to Amaya Gaming, who has fought hard to legalize and participate in the industry there. But recent comments made by the company reveal that the gaming giant is very confident that it will have access to that market eventually.

“We see a lot of momentum and it’s really a question of when not if, and obviously we’re hoping that it’s sooner rather than later,” said Amaya Vice President of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser.

Amaya CEO David Baazov spoke about the trials of becoming regulated at a luncheon organized by the Québec MBA Association last week. “To achieve those objectives it’s important to support and lobby for clarity and regulation that will allow consumers and governments to feel secure in knowing that they’re protected by a legitimate, forward-looking industry,” he said.

PokerStars still waiting in NJ

The company is currently awaiting the green light in New Jersey to offer online gambling in the state. PokerStars has endured much in that fight, first losing its casino partner and $10 million, and then being denied a license with their new partner, Resorts. Finally, after selling the company to Amaya, PokerStars is on the verge of getting the go-ahead from New Jersey regulators.

PokerStars’ Garden State launch has been delayed much longer than many believed it would. Every month, rumors of the company’s imminent licensing circulate through the industry, but never come to pass. Baazov says that he is still confident, however, that the site will be regulated in the third quarter of this year.

iGaming’s bad reputation

Part of the reason for the delay in launch is certainly due to online poker’s less than stellar past. With the sale to Amaya, PokerStars hoped to shed that image, putting the company in untainted hands. “The gambling industry has a bad reputation in some quarters, but that simply doesn’t reflect in public opinion,” said Baazov. “It’s not the way our nearly 100 million customers think about online gaming and it’s not the way many forward-looking governments around the world view our business.”

California was seemingly the next states to legalize online poker, but disagreements between the state’s varied gambling interests meant that a passable bill could not be ironed out. Gambling stakeholders were divided into different factions, one of which was opposed to PokerStars and horse tracks, and one formed by Stars, which included several brick-and-mortar cardrooms. While at the last minute it looked as if Pechanga was looking to compromise, a deal was never struck as both sides remained steadfast in their demands.

Aside from bad actor language which would preclude PokerStars from participating in the future California Internet poker market, the coalition of tribes was unshakable on its belief that Indian tribes should be the only ones to offer gambling in the Golden State, not horseracing tracks.