Confirmed: PokerStars Enters Into Partnership with Morongo and Three California Cardrooms

PokerStars Partners With MorongoConfirmed: PokerStars Enters Into Partnership with Morongo and Three California Cardrooms

On Wednesday a bevy of influential figures gathered to [geolink href=””]weigh in on the prospect of regulating online poker in the state of California[/geolink]. But the biggest news of the day was the Rational Group’s announcement that its rumored alignment with The Morongo Band of Mission Indians and [geolink href=””]California’s[/geolink] three largest cardrooms in the Commerce Club, the Bicycle Club and the Hawaiian Gardens was in fact a staunch reality.

In a masterful display of timing, the group issued a press release announcing the partnership mere moments before Morongo Chairman Robert Martin took center stage at the online poker hearing.

The release also outlined the regulatory framework sought by the group, placing firm emphasis on consumer protection, the financial and player benefits of regulated online poker, the strict operator and subcontractor vetting processes that must be implemented and the importance of fair play.

As stated by Martin:

We’re pleased to announce our agreement with these established and proven organizations that represent millions of California poker players.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring development in the history of the state regulated online poker scene, the now confirmed arrangement set off the equivalent of a social media firestorm. Leave it to PokerStars to make a grand entrance, or in this case reentrance.

Partnership does not guarantee reentry

While the partnership goes a long ways towards establishing PokerStars’ presence in the U.S’s regulated iGaming market, the company still faces a long and arduous road ahead before it can legally offer its exemplary online poker product to U.S. citizens.

Both iGaming bills currently up for debate in California call for a “bad actor” clause, effectively prohibiting any operator that continued to accept U.S. residents after the enactment of the UIGEA to participate in the regulated market. PokerStars would be grouped under this category.

In addition, [geolink href=””]several of California’s tribal factions spoke out about the importance of maintaining integrity[/geolink] in the state’s iGaming industry. It can be inferred that what they meant by integrity is actually a call for a bad actor provision.

Martin and Keith Sharp, who represented the three Californian cardrooms at the hearing, took an expectedly different stance, speaking sternly against bad actor clauses.

And of course should California’s state legislators vote against regulating online poker, PokerStars would be forced to seek another avenue for reentry.

Finally, PokerStars’ having its application for a license rejected by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement may play a role in the decision making process of California lawmakers.

PokerStars would act as more than just a subcontractor

Make no mistake, if PokerStars is allowed back into the U.S. it would not merely provide the poker platform for the newly-minted triumvirate. No, its well-respected and recognizable name would adorn the site.

Below you can read the official press release:

Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California’s Largest Card Clubs and PokerStars Announce Agreement to Offer Online Poker in California When Legislation is Passed
Legislation should fully protect the interests of consumers and the State, but should not be abused to artificially create a competitive advantage for a select few
Sacramento, CA, April 23, 2014 – The Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California’s (and the world’s) three largest card clubs – the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino and the Bicycle Casino – and The Rational Group, which owns and operates PokerStars, announced today that once California enacts legislation authorizing intrastate online poker, PokerStars will serve as the subcontractor providing the online poker platform and related services for a real-money online poker website to be licensed, owned and operated by an entity owned by the Tribe and the card clubs.  This will give Californians access to the world’s largest and most popular online poker brand in a safe and locally-regulated environment. The organizations will work together to advocate for legislation that extends California’s tough, long-established gaming regulations to include intrastate online poker and thus ensure stringent consumer protection, consumer choice and maximum revenue for the state.
“We’re pleased to announce our agreement with these established and proven organizations that represent millions of California poker players,” Morongo Band of Mission Indians Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said. “We’re confident that, together, we can offer a safe, secure, high-quality online poker experience that brings financial benefits to California while providing the highest level of accountability, choice, service and protection for consumers.”
The agreement formally ties the organizations together in a long-term arrangement to promote legislation that authorizes and regulates intrastate real-money online poker in California and thereafter to all necessary licenses and other approvals to offer online poker under the new State-regulated system.
In announcing the agreement, the coalition established a set of guiding principles that it considers essential elements of any legislation to authorize intrastate online poker:
Ø  Extend California’s Strict Consumer Protections and High Standards of Accountability to Intrastate Real-Money Online Poker.
Ø  Ensure that California and Californians Benefit From State-Authorized Online Poker.
Ø  Require Stringent Regulatory Vetting of Operators and Subcontractors Before Authorizing Licenses, Using the Same Proven Statutory Suitability Criteria that Have Served California Well for Nearly Two Decades.
Ø  Reject Attempts by Special Interests to Use the Legislature to Restrict Competition and Pick “Winners and Losers.”
“Efforts by a select few interests to rewrite longstanding and effective policy in order to gain a competitive market advantage or to lock out specific companies is not in the best interests of consumers or the state and will be vigorously opposed by our coalition, online poker players and many others,” Chairman Martin added.
Speaking on behalf of the three card clubs, attorney Keith Sharp said, “As operators of the world’s largest card clubs, we are excited to join Morongo and PokerStars to provide California players with familiar brands to choose from in a well-regulated online poker experience.  California has a long history and deep expertise in regulating live poker and we look forward to working with legislators and our industry colleagues to pass a bill that enhances competition and consumer protection, while providing the state Gambling Control Commission and state Department of Justice with the regulatory tools, staff and other resources needed to apply their expertise in vetting and assessing the suitability of prospective operators and subcontractors, and providing strict ongoing regulatory oversight.”
Guy Templer, Group Director of Strategy and Business Development for the Rational Group said, “PokerStars has a great history with California poker players, who want us in the market.  We are the worldwide leader in regulated online poker and hold more national licenses than any other operator.  We look forward to bringing our best practices in responsible gaming, online security, e-commerce, protection of players’ funds and game integrity to the California market.”
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About the Morongo Band of Mission Indians
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is a federally-recognized Indian Tribe that operates the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa near Banning (Riverside County), California, under a Class III gaming compact with the State of California. The Tribe exercises governmental jurisdiction over the 34,000+ acre Morongo Indian Reservation. Since 2009, the Morongo Band has been in the forefront of efforts to give California’s online poker players renewed access to the online games from which they’ve been excluded since 2011. The Tribe’s California LLC, Morongo Internet Poker, is one of the members of the California Internet Poker LLC.
About Commerce Casino
Commerce Casino, the largest poker casino in the world, has more than 200 tables featuring about every form of poker: Texas Hold ’em, 7-Card Stud, Omaha, Pot Limit, Mexican Poker, Pineapple, Draw, Low-Ball and many others. Commerce Casino is recognized for its innovative “Bring Your Home Game to Commerce” program enabling poker fans to invite friends/family for a casual home game, bachelor party or birthday celebration with a professional dealer in a casino setting.  Commerce Casino is located at 6131 East Telegraph Rd., Commerce, CA 90040, just off the Santa Ana (5) Freeway at the Washington Blvd. exit. For more information, go to an CommerceCasino. or call 323.721.2100.
About Bicycle Casino
The Bicycle Casino has been a premier gaming destination in Southern California since it’s opening in 1984. Located in Bell Gardens, it has historical employed nearly 2,000 people hosting daily customers, international visitors and poker celebrities. Under the leadership of General Partners Bob Carter and Hashem Minaiy, they are expanding their facility which will soon open a world class 100 room luxury hotel to accommodate their growing tournament business.
Active participants in their community, the Bike (as it’s commonly known) contributes significant resources to the public safety and recreational needs of its Bell Gardens neighbors, provides 60% of the City of Bell Gardens annual budget, and through its Bicycle Casino Community Foundation, provides several thousands of dollars  annually in college scholarships to deserving students.
About Hawaiian Gardens Casino
Hawaiian Gardens Casino has been an integral part of the City of Hawaiian Gardens for nearly 20 years. The Hawaiian Garden Casino opened with five tables and has grown to nearly 200 tables in our current 59,500 square foot facility. Hawaiian Gardens Casino is the second largest card club and ranks second in revenue in the world. Hawaiian Gardens Casino is presently constructing a new 220,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art casino. Scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2016, this new facility will include 300 gaming tables as well as a restaurant, lounge, VIP gaming section and event center capable of hosting 75 tournament tables.
About The Rational Group
The Rational Group operates gaming and related businesses and brands including PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, the European Poker Tour, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Latin American Poker Tour and the Asia Pacific Poker Tour. These brands collectively form the largest poker business in the world, comprising online poker games and tournaments, live poker competitions and poker programming created for television and online audiences. In addition to operating the two largest online poker sites where it dealt more than 100 billion poker hands and ran over 800 million online tournaments, the group is also the largest producer of live poker events around the world. More than 800 live tournaments are held annually, awarding over $215 million in prize money. More than 50,000 players compete in flagship Main Event tournaments every year, representing over 100 different countries.
Rational Group’s businesses are among the most respected in the industry for delivering high-quality player experiences, unrivalled customer service, and innovative software. The Group employs industry-leading practices in payment security, game integrity, and player fund protection. The Rational Group holds more online poker licenses than any other e-gaming company, and works closely with regulators around the world to help establish sensible global regulation. The group has a truly international presence, with more than 1,700 employees in over 20 locations around the world. There are major service offices in Isle of Man, United Kingdom, Ireland, Costa Rica, Australia, Spain, Italy, France and Malta, offering customer support in 29 languages.
Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett