San Manuel CEO talks about PokerStars partnership as Amaya stocks soar

The California legislative session is poised to reconvene on December 1st, after which a new bill to regulate online poker is expected to be introduced no later than the submission deadline of January 30, 2015. Enthusiasm is high that legislature will move forward with regulation next year, as was evident by last week’s joint venture between the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the PokerStars’ alliance, which includes the Morongo Tribe and California’s three largest card room operators. This week, San Manuel’s CEO spoke out on the new partnership while Amaya Gaming stocks continued to soar to new heights.

Amaya Gaming is the new owner of the Rational Group, which controls PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. The Quebec-based games technology developer first appeared on the Canadian Stock Exchange (AYA – CNSX) in July of 2010 at a modest price of $1 per share. Reserved growth ensued as the company built upon its foundation with strategic acquisitions, but in the last few months alone, it has skyrocketed 235%, opening at 36.9 this morning. Much of that is attributed to the purchase of Rational Group in mid-June of this year, and the subsequent potential for PokerStars to finally reclaim a foothold in the US online poker market via New Jersey and/or California.

The prospective market in California could be enormous. Even as a ring-fenced online poker community, the 39 million population would have no problem supporting a vast online poker market, and that’s something the San Manuel tribe would surely prefer to tap into with PokerStars as a partner, rather than a rival.

In a sit-down with Chris Grove of OPR, Matthew Cullen, CEO of San Manuel, explained the tribe’s decision to flip sides, no longer supporting the dozen California tribes that oppose PokerStars’ latent operation in the state. San Manuel had previously aligned with a group that strongly advocated a California online poker bill with a bad actors clause aimed at preventing PokerStars from participating. But according to Cullen, just before signing a deal with another software developer over the summer, they “took a step back to reassess everything.”

As soon as San Manuel applied the brakes, “Amaya bought the largest platform in the world.” Cullen said that was the key factor in their decision to bat for the other team. “Amaya is a public company that values transparency,” explained Cullen, who went on to describe the Canadian company as one that strongly values and upholds strict regulatory standards, not just in their current markets, but in reference to California online poker as well.

Cullen commented that San Manuel is “quite optimistic” about the future of online poker in the state where its PokerStars alliance is concerned. If legislators pass an online poker bill that would allow PokerStars to apply for a license – much more likely with the resected Amaya group at the helm – the tribes of San Manuel and Mornogo, as well as the Bicycle Casino, Commerce Club and Hawaiian Gardens card rooms, would be poised to launch networked online poker sites in California via the immensely popular PokerStars platform.

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