New California Ad Campaign Slams PokerStars, Amaya

Viejas Launches Anti-PokerStars Ad Campaign In California (AUDIO)

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The rhetoric surrounding California online poker continues to intensify, dampening the state’s chances of passing a bill to regulate the industry in 2015.

Latest to the fray: a radio ad campaign from the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians that paints an aggressively negative picture of both PokerStars and the brand’s new owner Amaya.

Listen to the spot currently airing in various California markets below:

The campaign comes on the heels of the California Gaming conference where a tribal coalition (including Viejas) that opposes the participation of horse tracks and PokerStars in regulated online poker was consistently branded as obstructionist by those who support inclusion of tracks, PokerStars, or both.

Ad runs the gamut

The version of the ad relayed to OPR touched on the typical points raised against PokerStars in the California debate, including the company’s settlement with the US Department of Justice (PokerStars admitted no wrongdoing) and the ongoing AMF inquiry into trading in Amaya around Amaya’s acquisition of PokerStars in 2014.

The ad concludes by urging listeners to contact their representatives to voice opposition to PokerStars’ participation in online poker.

In terms of tone and tenor, the ad is similar to rhetoric found in a March 2015 letter to lawmakers opposing AB 167 (which would not impede PokerStars’ access to California) signed by Viejas and its coalition partners.

One new twist: the ad extends the critique to Amaya, who went unmentioned in the March letter.

Hardening bodes poorly for consensus building

The escalation of public rhetoric from both sides is a tremendously negative indicator for two primary reasons.

First, it signals to lawmakers that online poker is a contentious issue, one where action could invite blowback (potentially from powerful sources). Once that perception is established, it is difficult to undo should the parties involved set aside their differences. That’s a strong force powering legislative inaction on the issue.

Second, it suggests a critical lack of good faith among stakeholders in the California online poker process. The key stumbling blocks of tracks and PokerStars are not small differences. To some in the process, they trigger existential concerns. Resolving those concerns will take an abundance of trust, trust that is far more difficult to establish within the context of public attacks.

Hearings next chance for temperature taking

Two upcoming hearings in the Assembly will deal directly with online poker and should provide the best opportunity for a true temperature taking across all camps. Per the schedule posted by the Governmental Organization Committee:

  • 6/24/2015, 1:30 p.m. (Joint Assembly / Senate GO)  — Informational hearing: “The Legality of Internet Poker–How Prepared is California to Regulate It?”
  • 7/8/15, 1:30 p.m. (Assembly GO)  — AB 9 Gatto; AB 167 Jones–Sawyer.

Given the clash between AB 9 and AB 167 on the issues of tracks and PokerStars, the July hearing could prove the more revealing of the two in terms of whether any true room for compromise on those issues exists.

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