Online poker will have to wait in California, PokerStars to blame
The company’s arrogance is most likely the main reason why online poker isn’t already in California
“The arrogance and ignorance of PokerStars f—ed it up.” These are the words of the editor of Pechanga.net, Victor Rocha. Rocha is also the tribal strategist for the Pechanga tribe and asserts that the large poker company is the main reason why online poker isn’t already part of California’s landscape. It’s looking more likely that 2019 won’t be the year for the activity in The Golden State, either.
Rocha adds, “[PokerStars] thought they could drive a wedge between the tribes and slide right in. They underestimated Pechanga tribal Chairman Mark Macarro’s resolve. He never changed his message; PokerStars was a bad actor and bad actors are not welcome in California.”
The California native tribes have control over virtually all gaming activity in the state. Poker clubs have, in recent years, tried to circumvent those controls, which has only led to greater pushback on the part of the tribes. Several lawsuits have been filed against the state by the groups in order to prevent further expansion of gambling activity and these lawsuits are keeping politicians afraid to try to introduce any new legislation.
So, why aren’t the tribes offering online poker? According to a former member of the California Gambling Control Commission, Richard Schuetz, “I actually believed at the beginning of the process that iGaming and iPoker was possible, for I listened to what people were saying, and I was working my butt off in assisting in it becoming a reality. I then got a wakeup call and quit listening and started watching. It was clear after a while that this train was not leaving the station. It was all about the legislators, lawyers and lobbyists making money by leading people to believe that train could leave the station. It had no chance, period. The tribes were not comfortable with the risk and absolutely did not want card rooms to benefit.”
For their part, the tribes say there isn’t any money to be made. In pointing to the decreased revenue of online poker in New Jersey, Rocha explains, “Now, looking back with everything we know about online poker, the tribes saved themselves a lot of money by not investing in the financial death spiral we now call online poker.”
So, with tribes unwilling to offer online poker and politicians unwilling to upset the tribes, it might be a while before California residents are able to play poker online.