Proposed iPoker bill amendments are a bad bet for poker players

Sacramento, California– John A. Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with 1.2 million members nationwide and more than 90,000 members in California, issued the following statement urging lawmakers to reject proposed amendments to AB 2863, a bill to license and regulate online poker. These proposed amendments would restrict competition and leave players dissatisfied. These amendments would also make AB 2863 less likely to pass.ppa-logo

“We are deeply disappointed that Chairman Adam Gray has chosen to play politics at the behest of special interests. The proposed amendments threaten to doom the iPoker legislation for which we and our members have advocated for years. Since the Internet poker debate began in California nearly ten years ago, PPA has been the only consistent voice urging lawmakers to license and regulate Internet poker. During this time, our message remained consistent: protect consumers and promote competition. Unfortunately, some of Chairman Gray’s proposed amendments undermine this principle.

A last-minute insertion of so-called “bad actor” amendments would, in reality, just be an anti-competitive measure that would single out Amaya/PokerStars and their California tribal and cardroom partners from participating in the regulated marketplace. And, while some are purporting that this is a temporary five-year ban, an examination of the proposed amendments reveal that it is actually a lifetime ban. This raises serious constitutional issues and calls into question whether a bill with this language would ever be enacted, assuming it could even pass over what is sure to be stiff opposition. Most importantly, these amendments threaten to prolong consumers’ wait for regulated online poker in California.

Also, the purpose of these amendments itself it flawed. Exclusion of Amaya/PokerStars would be detrimental for many reasons. California consumers would be left without one of the most trusted and popular online poker brands in the world. For years, California players have awaited the return of PokerStars and its proven technology. Their presence in markets increases competition, raising the bar for all operators to offer consumer-driven products. This was seen most recently in New Jersey. These amendments, were they to become law, would also mean that the operator with the most experience in protecting online consumers – from blocking underage access and mitigating problem gambling to collusion prevention and anti-money laundering measures – would be permanently forced onto the sidelines. This would be a loss not only for the consumer but for the entire state of California.

PPA does not believe anyone should be entitled to a license to operate Internet poker in California. We feel a license to operate is a privilege that must be earned through a vigorous vetting process and that questions of suitability should be left to independent California state gaming regulators. Legislating a “bad actor” provision would strip regulators of that independent role.

We urge Chairman Gray and other members of the Assembly to pass legislation licensing Internet poker, but without this anti-competitive provision. We want an iPoker market that is strong, safe, open and competitive. That is the best result for California consumers.”

The Poker Players Alliance is a nonprofit membership organization comprised of over 1,000,000 online and offline poker players and enthusiasts from around the United States who have joined together to speak with one voice to promote the game and to protect poker players’ rights.

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