PokerStars' rocky road back into the United States online poker market has gotten a lot smoother in the last week. First, three California tribes — Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, Pala Band of Mission Indians, and United Auburn Indian Community — wrote a letter showing their support for two online poker bills in the state while simultaneously loosening their stance on "bad actors." It was a small step in the right direction, and it was followed by an even larger leap.
That's because Caesars, longtime opponent of PokerStars' return to the U.S. market, has changed its stance and no longer view the Amaya-owned company as opposition in the fight for online poker. Caesars, whose current land-based partner in California are the aforementioned Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, has publicly confirmed it is now "allied" with PokerStars when it comes to online poker in the United States.
"[W]e need to focus on where our opposition really lies, and clearly it's not Amaya and PokerStars. They are a strong ally in the space," Jan Jones Blackhurst, the Executive Vice President of Governmental Relations for Caesars, told Chris Krafcik of GamblingCompliance.
The opposition Blackhurst refers to is undoubtedly Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, who has vowed to spend whatever is required to institute a federal ban on online gaming called the Restoration of America's Wire Act (RAWA). In response, some entities have joined forces to compete again Adelson's deep pockets and political influence. It seems Caesars has followed suit.
Caesars' paradigm shift comes a month after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an attempt to restructure a debt over $24 billion, and a little over a week after word broke that Gary Loveman was stepping down as Chief Executive Officer. Mark Frissora, who served as CEO of Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. from 2007-2014, will take over as CEO on July 1.
"Amaya and Caesars have enjoyed a very good relationship and business partnership for a number of years. That has not changed since acquiring PokerStars," Eric Hollreiser, Amaya's Head of Corporate Communications, told PokerNews. "As part of our ongoing conversations we will work closely with Caesars to promote the US online gaming industry and support responsible legislation at the state and federal levels."
When asked if the new alignment between Amaya and Caesars would result in a push towards a federal online poker bill, Hollreiser responded: "We are working at both state and federal levels. It's clear that a successful and competitive online poker market drives innovation and growth in the overall poker industry, which benefits everyone."
The new relationship between Caesars and PokerStars will likely have a positive impact on such states as Pennsylvania and New York, which are both considering iGaming, as well as in New Jersey, where iGaming is already legal. Caesars previously served as a roadblock for PokerStars' attempts to enter the Garden State, but now it looks like it's down to Adelson (and Gov. Chris Christie if recent rumors prove true).