PokerStars Initiates PR Push In California 

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Daniel Negreanu, Jason Somerville, PokerStars’ California online poker demo
Daniel Negreanu will appear alongside Jason Somerville in an online poker demonstration in Sacramento, but will they win the hearts and minds of California? (Image: PokerStars / Joe Giron)

PokerStars has increased its public relations efforts in California, with the announcement of a play-for-fun poker demonstration, hosted by Daniel Negreanu and Jason Somerville, in Sacramento tomorrow (May 21).

As the California legislature mulls the question of legalization and regulation, and the state’s gambling stakeholders squabble amongst themselves, PokerStars will make a play for the hearts and minds of the California public and media.

The demo is designed to show people “what online poker looks like and to better understand the protections in place,” says the PokerStars press release.

“While the room is open to the public from 10-noon,” it adds, “we are setting aside the 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. slot for media so PokerStars representatives can describe in more detail consumer protections and fraud detection measures in place on the PokerStars site and answer questions. We are looking to spend about 10 minutes on the presentation (depending on questions), then move to online play.”

The event is timed to coincide with the California Gaming Conference in Sacramento, as well as today’s (May 20) joint Senate and Assembly hearing on the subject of online poker.

PokerStars Lobby

Most of us are familiar with the PokerStars lobby; it’s where you register for those spin and go things, but we may soon have to become acquainted with the increasing presence of the PokerStars lobby-ist, if online poker is to get ahead in California.

PokerStars parent Amaya recently joined forces with Caesars Entertainment to increase lobbying efforts in Washington against the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), with the help of former presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt, who is understood to be on Amaya’s books.

Financed by Sheldon Adelson, RAWA seeks to ban online gambling at a federal level.

In California, the company is fighting the cause of online poker with its partners, an alliance of tribal gaming operators led by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, as well as the state’s main cardrooms.

These parties have an agreement to offer online poker in a post-regulation landscape.

Fragmented Gambling Industry

They are, however, facing an uphill battle. Because any online poker bill in California would affect taxation, it would need a two thirds majority vote in the legislature to pass.

That would mean that all stakeholders involved, including all tribal operators and the racetracks, would need to agree on the language of the bill in order for online poker to become a reality.

Each group has its own powerful lobbyists, not to mention employees and unions with political capital, and without consensus, there will be no online poker this year, or any year.

The PokerStars coalition is opposed by a tribal alliance led by the Pechanga Luiseno Mission Indians, which is also vehemently against the participation of the racetracks in a future online poker market.

It may be a few years before an online poker bill is passed in California. In the meantime, though, a grassroots charm offensive seems like a good place to start.

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