PokerStars has signed another partner in California with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians joining the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the state’s largest poker rooms in agreeing to launch online poker with the operator once legislation is passed.

The operator will now act as a sub-contractor to the San Manuel and Morongo tribes, the Bicycle Casino, Commerce Club and Hawaiian Gardens card rooms. The original partnership with the Morongo tribe, Bicycle Casino, Hawaiian Gardens and Commerce Club was agreed in April this year.

Its latest partner describes the decision to join as reflecting a “new day where gaming interests must work together in order to finally pass online poker legislation in California,” following Amaya’s $4.9bn acquisition of Rational Group in June.

The agreement is the first major development in San Manuel’s online poker strategy since the tribe’s iGaming subsidiary San Manuel Digital hired former RocketPlay president Matthew Cullen as its chief executive in April.

San Manuel chairwoman Lynn Valubuena commented: “We are convinced that the various interests must work together if we are to be successful in establishing a well-regulated environment and the best-in-class Internet poker industry for California,” she explained.

Morongo tribal chairman Robert Martin added that San Manuel’s decision to join the group marked “a new day” in its efforts to finally legalise online poker in California.

“We’re excited about the momentum and opportunities this new agreement represents in getting legislation passed,” Martin continued. “As tribes come together on this issue, the opportunity for success grows.”

Attorney Keith Sharp of Falk & Sharp, representing the card rooms, noted that he looked forward to working with legislators and industry colleagues to pass a bill that would ensure strong regulation and consumer protection.

PokerStars group business development director Guy Templer described San Manuel as a strong, forward-thinking operator and a great partner to join in efforts to develop “an open and well regulated iPoker market in California.”

“We are looking forward to working with the Legislature and with other stakeholders to help develop an industry that will benefit California consumers and the state alike,” he added.

The agreement sees the San Manuel tribe become the first entity to partner PokerStars since Amaya’s acquisition of Rational Group in June. 

San Manuel were one of a few tribes that had not spoken out against PokerStars' partnership with the Morongo tribe and the card rooms, despite the California Tribal Business Alliance (CTBA) pledging to fight any legislation that would allow the operator to enter the state’s online poker market – something which PokerStars and its partners have attacked as anti-competitive.

It was, however, one of thirteen tribes to reach consensus on online poker legislation in June, which included a so-called ‘bad actor’ clause designed to block any operator active in the market after December 31st, 2006, from obtaining a licence.


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