California online poker proponents could be forgiven for being a little disappointed after the state came nowhere near regulating Internet poker games during the 2015 legislative season.
But one of the major forces behind efforts to bring poker to the Golden State says that it is confident it will only be a matter of time before players are wagering real money on the virtual felt.
Amaya Vice President of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser told the Financial Post that while the company isn’t sure when they’ll be able to bring PokerStars to California, they are confident it will happen at some point.
“We see a lot of momentum and it’s really a question of when, not if, and obviously we’re oping that it’s sooner rather than later,” Hollreiser said.
PokerStars has reasons to be optimistic in the state. The company spent 2015 rallying support for their efforts, broadening their coalition and taking some of their most recognizable pros on a tour of California poker rooms this summer.
But there are still substantial obstacles to regulated online poker in California.
These are mainly due to infighting between various gaming interests in the state, as Native American tribes, card rooms, and the horse racing industry are all vying for a piece of any online gambling pie that might emerge.
According to Amaya CEO David Baazov, the company is doing everything it can to penetrate into the United States market, and further regulation of online poker and gambling is the best way to reach more American customers.
“Regulation ensures license holders have the correct auditing, fraud and fund protection in place to protect consumers and allow strict government oversight,” Baazov said at a Quebec MBA association luncheon on Thursday. “To achieve those objectives it’s important to support and lobby for clarity and regulation that will allow consumers and governments to feel secure in knowing that they’re protected by a legitimate, forward-looking industry.”
Amaya has already begun to make inroads in the USA market, though not in the world of poker.
Just before the start of the NFL season, the company launched StarsDraft in the United States, a daily fantasy sports sites that will compete with heavyweights like FanDuel and DraftKings.
As for poker, the most likely entry point for Amaya is through New Jersey, where PokerStars has had an application review pending for what seems like an eternity.
On several occasions, both Amaya and New Jersey officials have suggested they believed an approval was coming soon, but so far there has been no confirmed launch date for PokerStars in the state.
On Monday’s edition of the Global Gaming Business Podcast, New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) Director David Rebuck talked a bit about the process with Global Gaming Business’ Roger Gros.
“We’re going to do this in a very professional way which will be published to the world, because whatever decision we come down on will be scrutinized, and some will hate it and some will love it,” Rebuck said of the agency’s decision on whether to license Amaya, which bought the Rational Group last year.
Rebuck noted that the review isn’t focusing so much on Amaya itself, but rather on Amaya’s purchase of the Rational Group, a review that has apparently included dozens of interviews and trips to several countries by DGE representatives.
Baazov has previously stated that he expected PokerStars to earn a New Jersey license sometime in the third quarter of 2015.