Anti-PokerStars Coalition Exploits Amaya Insider-Trading Charges

pokerstarsAs California lawmakers attempt to pass online poker legislation acceptable to all of the state’s gambling stakeholders, a coalition of tribes opposed to PokerStars continues to work to block the iGaming giant from opening up shop in their state.

The coalition, which includes the powerful Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, has tried to achieve that goal by insisting on the inclusion of “bad actor” language in any iPoker legislation. The measure would effectively disqualify PokerStars from becoming licensed in the Golden State due to its participation in the US market after the UIGEA was passed.

Insider-Trading Allegations

Last month, just as it seemed that the coalition was ready to compromise on the issue, it seemingly received a gift when Canadian financial regulators charged Amaya CEO David Baazov with disseminating privileged information about the acquisition of PokerStars by his company. He has not, however, been accused of profiting off that information.

Supporters of PokerStars believe that the charges are paper thin, and that the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), the regulatory body which levied the charges, is merely seeking the spotlight in an attempt to justify its own existence amongst a complex web of Canadian regulators.

A Long Journey

PokerStars has been put through the ringer in its attempts to reopen inside the US. In New Jersey, they were refused a license by regulators, who were concerned about the original founders’ continued involvement in the site. The sale of PokerStars to Amaya transferred ownership into clean hands and cleared the way for the site to become licensed in the state.

New Jersey launched online gambling over two years ago, but PokerStars only recently received approval to launch there. Even though their competitors had a huge headstart, PokerStars flexed its muscles and immediately became the biggest Poker operator in the state. The site is likely to continue to dominate the New Jersey iGaming market as they do worldwide.

Seizing on Amaya Charges

Nonetheless, California tribes opposed to PokerStars have seized on the AMF investigation and are using it as fodder to back their cause. The Pechanga and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians continue to demand that a bad actor clause be included in any future bill, and that PokerStars be excluded. As one of the biggest and most regulated online gaming sites in the world, PokerStars is a clear threat to upstart operators in California. Many believe, furthermore, that the opposition to the site has more to do with limiting competition than protecting consumers.

PokerStars is Itself a part of a powerful coalition in California that includes the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the United Auburn Indian Community, the Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino and Hawaiian Gardens Casino.

The insider-trading charges have naturally caused some of PokerStars’ partners to move with caution. Dave Palermo of Online Poker Report recently wrote that Lynn Valbuena, chair of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, a PokerStars ally, recently expressed “concerns” about the insider-trading issue.

For its part, the PokerStars coalition recently sent a letter to Adam Gray, sponsor of online poker bill AB 2863, reiterating their commitment to “protect consumers, create jobs, and strengthen [the state] economy by authorizing and regulating intrastate, Internet poker in California.”