When the Canadian company Amaya Gaming Group Incorporated decided to purchase the parent company of PokerStars, it had its eye on California. But PokerStars has faced stiff resistance from US authorities who don’t want to see this online poker operator returning to the US market – at least not in its current form. In spite of over $730 million in fines paid, PokerStars is still persona non grata. However, there may be a silver lining in the PokerStars cloud, what with the 5 year exclusion in Nevada, and a potential re-entry into New Jersey. This is of course all contingent on Amaya Gaming performing a complete reboot of PokerStars.
Bills Under Consideration in California
California is massive in terms of casino gaming revenue. The Indian tribal casinos brought in $6.96 billion during 2012 and that accounts for approximately 25% of all Indian gaming revenue across the country. There are presently 2 poker bills under consideration in California and if either of them passes without the bad actor cause (or at least without the bad actor clause being applicable to PokerStars), it will likely be a green light for Amaya Gaming. Presently, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker control 54% of foreign online poker traffic. In total they have 85 million registered poker players and there are millions more in the US waiting to cash in. Amaya Gaming Inc says that both businesses generated revenues of $1.3 billion during 2013 with PokerStars accounting for over 90% of that revenue.
While PokerStars’ owners still have indictments against them, the company itself has paid the fines imposed upon it. These were the result of PokerStars continuing its operations in US cyberspace in contravention of the passage of the UIGEA in 2006. PokerStars beat a hasty retreat when its founders were indicted on money laundering charges and fraud. However, the DoJ has made it clear that the indictment would not necessarily bar PokerStars from re-entering the US online poker market. But the problem is that states have a different opinion. These come in the form of Bad Actor Clauses. And they are present in Nevada and California. Any online poker operator that was operational in the US after December 31st 2006 is excluded on the grounds of being a bad actor.
PokerStars is in talks with one of the most influential Native American tribes – the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. The tribe and its partners are fighting hard to push through an online poker bill that will include PokerStars. Amaya and the Rational Group are hoping that they will be able to gain lawful re-entry into the US online poker market – specifically California. Amaya is not only licensed on the TSE, it is also listed as a state regulated online gaming company in the state of NJ. Many in the online gaming industry are buoyed by Amaya’s purchase of PokerStars, but the weak performance of online poker in NJ has raised some alarm bells in the Garden State. The Amaya deal is likely to provide PokerStars with a ticket into New Jersey, but the golden ticket would be re-entry into the Golden State!