Amaya Appoints Former Ontario Police Commissioner as Advisor

Former Ontario Police Commissioner Chris Lewis

Former Ontario Police Commissioner Chris Lewis has been appointed to Amaya Gaming’s Board of Directors in a possible bid to help the company navigate Canada’s political and legal gambling hurdles. (Image: TheStar.com)

Amaya Gaming, parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt, has announced the appointment of former Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis as an advisor to its Board of Directors.

Though the news suggests Amaya may be on the rebound after last month’s raid, Lewis’ appointment along with a second one suggest the company may be focusing its efforts into the Canadian poker market.

New Hires, EH!

In addition to Lewis, Amaya has appointed George Sweny, a member of the Board of Directors of the Responsible Gambling Council of Canada, as its Vice President of Strategic Ventures.

Sweny also served as the former senior vice president of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and President of the Interprovincial Lotteries Corporation.

“We’re extremely honored to benefit from the experience and expertise of Mr. Lewis and Mr. Sweny,” said Chairman and CEO of Amaya David Baazov. “As a company operating in a heavily regulated industry, Mr. Lewis’s experience will ensure we continue to lead the way in security processes and procedures as well as integrity, which are of crucial importance to our customers, as well as governments and industry partners. Additionally, Mr. Sweny has extensive gaming industry experience in both the public and private sector and will ensure we maintain the highest standards in responsible gaming.”

Lewis, who served as a police officer for nearly 36 years, will join Ben Soave on Amaya’s Board of Directors.

Soave, a retired Chief Superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was appointed in 2012 and also serves as a member of Amaya’s compliance committee.

Likely Reaction to Raid

The appointments of such highly respected members in Ontario’s gaming and political scenes is nothing to ignore.

Those who have been closely following Amaya since the company bought the Rational Group for $4.9 billion may remember when its offices were raided in December.

Conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Financial Markets Authority, the raid was part of investigation into a number of companies in relation to possible trading activity.

Amaya’s purchase of Rational, including the buying and selling taking place, was likely seen as a reason behind the raid.

Since Lewis retired from the Ontario Provincial Police on March 31, 2014, it’s likely he wasn’t involved in the raid in any way.

However, his continued involvement and influence in police services makes him a smart choice for Amaya in the possible prevention of a future raid.

Sweny’s lengthy and involved career in the Canadian gambling scene also puts him in a respectable position of power. The involvement of both men will serve to help protect and assist Amaya in any kind of investigation.

Breaking into Canada

While there’s little doubt Amaya would love to see PokerStars and Full Tilt flourish in the US regulated market, the slow process and threat of bad actor bills might throw up red flags for the company.

Since Amaya is based out of Montreal, it would make sense for a Canadian company to throw a good deal of effort into establishing themselves in the country’s gambling market.

Last June it was revealed that Amaya was in discussions with gambling monopoly Loto-Quebec about a launching PokerStars under a licensing umbrella.

At the moment, Loto-Quebec’s Espace-Jeux poker room controls poker offerings in the providence. Along with British Columbia’s PlayNow, the two rooms share liquidity through the Canadian Poker Network.

Despite that, many of these casinos and poker rooms find it hard to compete with international operators who accept Canadian players.

But in November, a report from the Working Group on Online Gambling suggested that the government should grant licenses to online operators to increase revenue.

This process could take a long time especially because amendments need to be made to Canada’s Criminal Code.

A possible workaround was suggested in the form of individual provinces making “portals” operated by existing regulators and allowing offshore companies to provide services like online poker.

With such a complex amount of legal and political hurdles, Amaya could use the experience of Lewis and Sweny to put themselves ahead of the game.

Sean Gibson
Written by
Sean Gibson
Sean Gibson has been an insider in the poker and casino industry for a number of years. Gibson has worked with many different media outlets and has covered events such as the World Series of Poker Main Event, the World Poker Tour Championship, and an infinite number of online events. He plays both 6-max and Full Ring No Limit Hold'em and can be found playing at either the Oceans 11 cardroom in Oceanside, CA or at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

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