My Opinion Of Bad Actor Clauses Changed Thanks To The Viejas Band’s Attack On PokerStars

John Mehaffey June 8, 2015 135 Reads
PokerStars attack ad California

Sometimes negative political ads backfire. That is exactly what happened when I first heard a California radio advertisement sponsored by the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.

It was just over two years ago that I penned a column explaining why I felt that PokerStars shouldn’t receive a New Jersey interactive gaming license. It wasn’t a popular opinion, but I felt at the time that it was the correct one.

I based much of that column on the fact that PokerStars remained in the U.S. market after the UIGEA went into effect and needed to deal with the consequences of that decision.

It was understood among industry insiders in 2006 that poker sites remaining in the U.S. market post-UIGEA would be excluded once regulation began. I also felt that the legal baggage carried by PokerStars may hinder further regulation in other states and interfere with interstate compacts.

Times change, and so do opinions

I moved to a neutral stance about a year after publishing that column. Part of that shift was based on the struggles the New Jersey market faced.

Some of the shift focused on how PokerStars matured and continued its dominance in the market as a top-notch company. The fact that PokerStars has always met its obligations, even in the face of Black Friday, is another reason I wouldn’t have objected to PokerStars entering the U.S. regulated market.

My change of opinion was not based on the sale of PokerStars to Amaya Gaming. I feel that is an irrelevant event in the big picture.

Moving to the middle of the spectrum helped me see both sides of the debate from a clear point of view. I sympathized with companies that were forced to sit on the sidelines while PokerStars operated in their market, one off limits to local gaming entities. I also saw that PokerStars could be exactly what the industry needed to achieve the next level due to its stellar reputation in the online poker world.

Caesars Entertainment, potentially the biggest PokerStars competitor in the U.S. online gaming market, dropped its opposition to the world’s largest poker site’s suitability. Caesars appeared to recognize strength in partnering with a longtime opponent for the purpose of lobbying for the greater good of the industry.

This started to draw me towards supporting the licensing of PokerStars in the U.S.

It wasn’t until I heard the radio commercial sponsored by the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians that I decided that remaining neutral was the wrong position on the bad actor issue. Sometimes it takes the behavior of one side to move you to the other.

That is exactly what happened in this situation.

Negative political ad backfired

The ad in question starts by exclaiming that the “California Legislature should be trying to stop Internet scam artists and conmen.” That is a phrase that grabs a listener’s attention, but I have a hard time connecting PokerStars to that sentence since it paid all obligations to players after Black Friday, as well as every other minute of its entire existence.

PokerStars is the exact opposite of a conman in the online poker world. Only the “PokerStars is rigged” crowd would think PokerStars is a “corrupt company,” another description the commercial used in reference to the largest online poker site in the world.

The alleged corrupt company happily paid $12.4 million in prizes from a single tournament in 2011, as well as every other legitimate cashout ever requested. PokerStars also bailed out Full Tilt players to the tune of about $334 million, an agreement that substantially benefited the online poker community, but one the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians wants to use as evidence of a fraud.

The advertisement goes on to describe the Black Friday indictment. That is a reasonable argument for entities hoping to keep PokerStars out of a market. The commercial then describes a raid at Amaya Gaming, presumably over an insider trading investigation. No charges have been filed related to those raids at this time, although in a political debate, it is fair game.

The ad continues by warning that PokerStars would gain access to every digital device in California, as if PokerStars were guilty of some identify theft scheme.

Based on the company’s history, that is an absurd assertion. To the best of my knowledge, PokerStars has never used access to its customers’ electronic devices for illicit purposes as the statement implies.

The advertisement ends with an encouragement that Californians should contact state representatives to help keep “bad actors like PokerStars” out of California’s regulated online poker bills.

The ad crossed the line on several points and helped me see the light that I was wrong two years ago. PokerStars should be allowed to operate in California and any other state that decides to legalize and regulate online poker.

It took an overly aggressive political ad for me to see that I was wrong all along. I want to thank the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians for helping me see the light.