Over the weekend, the PokerStars Pro Tour concluded with its final four events. The last stop took place atTurlock Poker Room & Casino in Turlock, California, and another large turnout of support took place. Fans, poker players, and media members from around the Central Valley region flocked to the room, hoping to get the chance to meet with Daniel Negreanu and Vanessa Selbst.
As previously mentioned, the PokerStars Pro Tour has been running since the middle of July, promoting awareness and support for legally, regulated online poker in the state. That's something Mario Alvarez, Director of Casino Relations at Turlock Poker Room & Casino, says the room is happy to get behind.
"Ownership has been on board with this since it first came out," Alvarez said. "They believe that this is something right for California. They believe that California should be regulated without a doubt, to protect the youth and all Californians to make sure that California can sustain itself through the profit that can be made from taxes, creation of jobs, and other things. We know that iPoker is something that's going to be here eventually, regardless. We feel that other countries are playing legal and regulated online poker, so why not the United States completely, and why not California?"
The ownership Alvarez mentions consists of co-owners Phil Rheinschild and Joe Fernandez. While at the event on Sunday, PokerNews had the opportunity to talk with Rheinschild about the room's decision to become a part of this movement.
"I think it's very cool to be a part of this process," Rheinschild said. "My feelings about online poker is that it's really not going to hurt us. You're going to see some shifts, but I think it's going to generate enough new players who will have curiosity and interest about being in a brick-and-mortar environment that I think it's going to be positive for us."
As many of the owners and management from all venues hosting stops on the PokerStars Pro Tour believe, online poker is coming to California eventually. As Rheinschild put it, "It's going to come one way or another." For him, it's important to be progressive and on board early in the process as to provide as much positive support in the endeavor.
"Online poker is going to come," Rheinschild said. "It's going to come one way or another. That's why I'm glad to throw my hat in the ring and say, 'Yeah, let's do something to move this process forward.' We want to do this in a way that's best for our customers, for the state so it can get its revenues out of it, and of course for the people who are going to benefit economically from it. Let's make it happen."
From an owner's standpoint, Rheinschild was extremely happy with the turnout at this past weekend's event, and he spoke very highly of the PokerStars officials on site for the operation and also of the pros, Negreanu and Selbst. Likewise, Alvarez shared the same sentiments towards the pros, knowing full and well that grinding out weekend after weekend on the tour and bouncing around from room to room can be taxing.
"I think having ambassadors like Daniel Negreanu, Vanessa Selbst, and the others that PokerStars can provide is very important," Alvarez said. "Not just because of their poker strengths, but because of the type of people they actually are. I can't say enough about Daniel and Vanessa. Our customers couldn't believe that superstars such as these two would be here in the Central Valley. Just seeing the looks on everyone's faces when they arrived and the enthusiasm they brought after a long time on the road, it's really great to see. Knowing that they represent a brand like this really makes a difference for our community, as you can see by evidence that the Turlock Poker Room has sold out. We sold out on the first day we opened registration for the event — something that's never happened at the Turlock Poker Room before. The PokerStars branding and reach is incredible, and the ambassadors they provide are absolutely amazing people. In my opinion, it is unmatched in poker industry currently."
Much like the various owners and management from venues hosting PokerStars Pro Tour stops agree that online poker coming to California is inevitable, they also are in line that the benefits of its regulation goes both ways. For Alvarez and the Turlock Poker Room, they're already eyeing the future.
"While we wait for regulation to happen as iGaming is pushed through Sacramento, we'll continue to explore avenues in which live venues such as the Turlock Poker Room & Casino can work hand in hand with online sites like PokerStars," Alvarez said. "In the future, we believe a brick-and-mortar institution like us will be used as a partner with online poker sites through various methods, and we hope, starting with these events, that our relationship only grows further working hand in hand with one another."
For now, the PokerStars Pro Tour does not have any future events listed on its website, Californians for Responsible iPoker, but that doesn't mean the fight stops. For those that live in California and would like to see regulated online poker alive in the Golden State, visit the Californians for Responsible iPoker website, sign up for the movement, and let your voice be heard.
*Image courtesy of Lee Jones, Director of Poker Communications for PokerStars.