PokerStars: California Opponents “Misrepresent” Our Past, Seek to Prevent “Fair Competition”

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Groups opposing PokerStars’ attempt to participate in the yet-to-be-legislated California market for online poker are seeking to “use the Legislature to gain a competitive market advantage” and are not acting in “the best interest of consumer choice or consumer protection.”

That’s per a statement from PokerStars’ Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser. The complete statement can be found at the end of the article.

The statement comes a day after a coalition of tribal gambling interests issued a strongly-worded rebuke of PokerStars’ efforts to enter the California market.

Leave regulating to the regulators

PokerStars “has not, will not and need not request any changes to the California gaming regulations,” the statement reads.

The statement cites the California Gambling Control Commission’s “15-year history of successful consumer protection” and notes that the CGCC is “more than qualified to continue to determine suitability.”

As a result, the statement asserts that California should follow the standard of other major jurisdictions and “leave the assessment of suitability to qualified expert regulators.”

PokerStars, the statement concludes, “looks forward to demonstrating our suitability to the regulator just like any other company seeking to operate in California and investing in a fair and well-regulated market.”

Groups “misrepresenting” PokerStars’ past

Those who are publicly opposing PokerStars are “misrepresenting the Unlawful Internet Enforcement Gambling Act (UIGEA) and PokerStars’ past U.S. operations,” the statement argues.

The goal of that misrepresentation, says the statement, is “to exclude PokerStars from the market in order to avoid what should be fair competition.”

The UIGEA “did not make illegal any gaming that was not already illegal before its passage,” the statement continues.

For its part, PokerStars “operated under legal opinion that its offering of online poker did not violate U.S. law before 2006 and maintained that opinion following the passage of UIGEA.”

Complete statement from PokerStars

PokerStars shares the belief that a future licensing framework for online poker in California should be based upon the highest standards of suitability that maximize consumer protection and consumer choice. We have consistently met those standards in jurisdictions around the world, where we hold 11 licenses – more than any other company, including licenses in leading European jurisdictions such as Italy, France and Spain. 

PokerStars has not, will not and need not request any changes to the California gaming regulations. Most regulatory frameworks around the world leave the assessment of suitability to qualified expert regulators. The same position has been taken by the legislators in New Jersey. The California Gambling Control Commission has a 15-year history of successful consumer protection and is more than qualified to continue to determine suitability.

The only parties seeking to change this are certain groups who want to use the Legislature to gain a competitive market advantage and to limit competition. Their efforts are not in the best interest of consumer choice or consumer protection.

These groups are misrepresenting the Unlawful Internet Enforcement Gambling Act (UIGEA) and PokerStars’ past U.S. operations serving only to exclude PokerStars from the market in order to avoid what should be fair competition. The fact is that UIGEA did not make illegal any gaming that was not already illegal before its passage. This has been confirmed by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and by the U.S. Department of Justice (**see below). PokerStars operated under legal opinion that its offering of online poker did not violate U.S. law before 2006 and maintained that opinion following the passage of UIGEA. 

PokerStars looks forward to demonstrating our suitability to the regulator just like any other company seeking to operate in California and investing in a fair and well-regulated market. 

** 1) Brian Benczowski, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General (Justice Department), wrote in a letter to Rep. John Conyers, Chairman, House Committee on the Judiciary on July 23, 2007 – “[T]he UIGEA itself does not make any type of gambling legal or illegal; rather, the statute is focused on regulating the methods of payment for already-illegal gambling.”

2) The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the UIGEA “does not itself outlaw any gambling activity, but rather incorporates other Federal or State law related to gambling.” Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Ass’n v. Attorney General, 580 F.3d 113, 116 (3d Cir. 2009).

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Chris Grove
- Chris is the publisher of OnlinePokerReport.com. Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.