August 27 – In a move that has drawn the ire of the poker-playing community, California’s Commerce Casino has publicly aired its opposition to the current efforts to legalize and regulate online poker. Labeled as self-serving, the stance has put the casino in a heads-up battle with the very poker players that who help to make Commerce a successful gambling venue.
Commerce Casino’s Tom Malkasian testified at the July hearing for HR 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act. Malkasian, who referred to himself as “an owner, board member and director of strategic planning of the Commerce Casino,” came out against legalizing of online poker, disputing the projected revenues that could be generated and suggesting the regulatory provisions of the bill were weak.
As news has gotten out regarding Malkasian’s testimony, the poker community has strongly voiced its opinion. Led by such well-known professional poker players as Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Chris Ferguson, Greg Raymer, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Daniel Negreanu and Annie Duke, an open letter to the Commerce Casino has appeared on the website PlayersBeforeProfits.com. To date, nearly 1,100 people have attached their names to the letter; in addition, a number of players have agreed to boycott the casino until it changes the public opinion.
Malkasian has been defiant, saying, “The Poker Players Alliance is ignoring the grave threat that the federal and state legislation poses to everyday poker players. America’s poker industry should be united in opposing the Frank and McDermott legislation and keeping American dollars at home.”
While the PPA has been steadfast in its support of online poker legislation, and the Commerce decision to oppose could have damaging effects for the casino. Annie Duke recently wrote, “I and some other pros are boycotting them as well. I will give my business to a place that supports the players.”
In a move that is seen as self-serving by the poker community, Commerce Casino is putting itself at odds with the very people that make it profitable. With pro-driven events like The L.A. Poker Classic, California State Poker Championship and The L.A. Poker Open, the casino might want to reconsider both the short and long-term effects of its opposition to legal internet poker rooms.