Last week, PokerStars announced that they will launch operations in New Jersey on March 21. However, that was not the only PokerStars themed news to break last week. The PokerStars Coalition in California grew by one when the United Auburn Indian Community announced their support for the group.
This change isn’t exactly shocking but continues to show how support for the PokerStars brand continues to grow in California. However, the major opponent to PokerStars continues to hold to their position and this could still halt progress towards online poker regulation in the Golden State.
UAIC Goes From Opponent to Proponent in Less Than Two Years
The announcement that the United Auburn Indian Community is now part of the PokerStars Coalition isn’t exactly groundbreaking considering their evolving position regarding iPoker over the last year, but their current position is a stark contrast to what they held just as recently as 2014.
Back in 2014, the UAIC was opposed to both bad actors (meaning PokerStars) and the issuing of licenses to the horse racing industry. However, last year the group changed their stance and started speaking favorably on both. They were not alone as the Pala Band of Mission Indians and the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians also left the Pechanga Coalition.
Why didn’t the UAIC go ahead and join PokerStars at that time? They had already agreed to a deal with bwin.Party to supply online poker services in California. Of course, that deal was signed before the sale of the company to GVC. Following that sale, the UAIC has been able to end their agreement with bwin.Party and have hopped onto the PokerStars bandwagon.
The PokerStars Coalition now includes the UAIC, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. In addition, the Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino and Hawaiian Gardens Casino are part of the group.
Defection Means Little as Long as Pechanga Opposition Remains
While many view the growth of the PokerStars Coalition as a positive step towards iPoker regulation in California, the truth is that it may not matter as long as the Pechanga continue to oppose.
The Pechanga Coalition consists of six tribes that are firmly against PokerStars and giving a license to the horse racing industry. While compromises are in the works for the horse racing issue, there’s been no official word from the Pechanga regarding any change of heart regarding PokerStars.
Some believe that the bad actor issue is moot thanks to the licensing of PokerStars in New Jersey but as long as the Pechanga and their coalition continue to oppose them, there’s little reason to believe that online poker will move forward.
What needs to happen at this point is for stakeholders to come together and find out what type of compromise that the Pechanga will accept in return for allowing PokerStars into California. There are other options available outside of an outright ban.
Look at Nevada for example. They banned PokerStars for a period of five years but the company can apply for a license in 2018. Maybe a short-term ban would be a concession. Perhaps the Coalition could negotiate for concessions from PokerStars, such as their releasing their player lists in California or maybe banning the company from reaching out directly to past players.
That’s just a couple of compromises that could possibly start the ball rolling towards getting the Pechanga on-board for a PokerStars return to the state. Most everyone agrees that online poker is not going to move forward in California without PokerStars, so now is the time to start working towards a compromise. If we don’t start seeing some movement in the next year, there’s a solid chance that it may never happen.