Amaya Gaming Group announced today it has selected former Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis as an advisor to its Board of Directors.
Headquartered in Montreal, Amaya CEO David Baazov says of the appointment, “As a company operating in a heavily regulated industry, Mr. Lewis’s experience will ensure we continue to lead the way in security processes and procedures as well as integrity, which are of crucial importance to our customers, as well as governments and industry partners.”
The parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt also revealed the hiring of George Sweny as VP of Strategic Ventures.
Sweny currently serves on the Responsible Gambling Council’s Board of Directors, and is the former senior vice president of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.
According to Baazov, “Mr. Sweny has extensive gaming industry experience in both the public and private sector and will ensure we maintain the highest standards in responsible gaming.”
Both moves appear to signal that Amaya is tightening loose ends when it comes to its operational security and legality. However, it also raises questions regarding Amaya’s true motives.
Last December, Amaya’s offices were raided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Financial Markets Authority (AMF) in an operation thought to be part of a federal investigation into trading activity.
Regulators were reportedly looking for information regarding Amaya’s financial buying and selling leading up to its $4.9 billion takeover of the Rational Group.
Bringing on two savvy leaders who are respected and well connected would be a smart business strategy in assuring a future raid doesn’t happen.
Lewis and Sweny also pose to be a strong asset should any charges be brought surrounding the federal investigation.
Another line of thinking is that Amaya is growing frustrated of the licensing process in the United States and is focusing its attention on Canada.
After months of delay in New Jersey, and California lawmakers proposing bills featuring “bad actor” language that targets PokerStars and Full Tilt, Amaya might simply be preparing for Plan B.
Loto-Quebec, the gambling monopoly in Canada’s second largest province, confirmed last June it was in discussions with Amaya regarding a PokerStars umbrella license.
Currently, Loto-Quebec’s Espacejeux is the only online site permitted to offer poker to providence residents.
Although Espacejeux shares player liquidity through the Canadian Poker Network, the casino has struggled to compete with international operators who accept players from Canada.
In November, a study by the Working Group on Online Gambling recommended Quebec’s provincial government grant private licenses to additional online poker operators in order to increase participation and revenue.
Before that could happen, amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code would have to be revised since it currently prohibits any private company from offering gambling products to citizens.
Changing the Criminal Code and approving of private licenses will take several years.
Because of this, the report also suggested individual provinces grant “portals” branching from existing regulators in order to bring commercial operators online faster.
Having Lewis and Sweny on Amaya’s side would likely only help expedite the process.