Caesars Will No Longer Pursue ‘Bad Actor’ Language in California Poker Bill

6935299600_d86a304d45_zIn a surprise about-face, Caesars announced that it will no longer support so-called “bad actor clauses” which would preclude PokerStars from entering into a future California online poker market.

The casino giant, along with three tribes, sent a letter clarifying their new stance to Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Mike Gatto, the backers of Internet poker bills AB 167 and AB 9, respectively.

The coalition throws its weight behind the Jones-Sawyer bill, which does not include a “bad actor clause,” and would also allow horseracing tracks to open online gambling sites of their own.

The letter states that in the interest of forming a consensus around AB 9, it would only support the exclusion of “bad actors” on an individual level, not by blocking entire companies. “This approach strikes a balance between the state’s need to ensure that persons who willfully defy gaming laws not be permitted to jeopardize the integrity of Internet poker in California, while recognizing that control of an entity may change over time in a way that resolves regulatory concerns,” the statement said.

The decision was further clarified by Caesars Executive Vice President Jan Jones Blackhurst, who was quoted in a tweet by Gambling Compliance writer Chris Krafcik:

The inclusion or exclusion of “bad actor clauses” has been a contentious issue amongst US online gambling stakeholders. Several tribes, including Pechanga and Agua Caliente, remain in favor of such language and have used the issue as a convenient tool to block PokerStars from the potentially lucrative California online poker market.

Caesars, however, seems to be looking at the big picture, and accepting that it will face tough competition from PokerStars, but compromising in order to first get a bill passed.

Last year, Reginald Jones-Sawyer said that he was close to forming a consensus around an online poker bill, but needed more time to get all of the state’s gambling interests on board.

Mike Gatto was the first to float an Internet poker bill this session when he introduced AB 9 in December. The legislation includes “bad actor” language and leaves the horseracing tracks on the outside looking in. PokerStars was quick to oppose the bill, calling it a rehash of previously failed legislation.

The coalition also made a few other suggestions in its letter, such as increasing AB 167’s four year licensing term to the 10 year agreement proposed in AB 9. They further recommended that prospective operators with good standing have two years of experience in the gambling industry.