The ongoing scrutiny into Amaya Inc by the Quebec financial regulator is not a cause for concern, reiterated its CEO and Chairman, David Baazov, at the company’s first annual general meeting in Montreal this week.
“It’s not something to be taken lightly, but it’s not Hollywood either,” Baazov told the assembled shareholders. “There has been no effect on the day-to-day operations of Amaya. It’s not taking away from the mental real-estate of the executive team, the staff, the organization, etc.”
The shareholders displayed their faith in these words by promptly reelecting Baazov as company chairman with a majority of 96 percent, although some may have wondered what on earth he meant by “mental real estate.”
Amaya’s Montreal offices were raided by police and provincial financial market regulators AMF in early December as part of an investigation into alleged securities fraud.
Amaya’s share prices skyrocketed in the lead up to the company’s acquisition of PokerStars last summer, and some form of insider trading was suspected.
There have been no accusations of wrongdoing by AMF, but the investigation drags on, and its existence remains an embarrassment for Baazov, Amaya and their global ambitions.
“If people go through the information carefully, look at the timeline, anybody who is sophisticated and rational can come to a pretty rational conclusion about the events that took place to get us where we are,” said Baazov.
The investigation failed to hinder Amaya’s recent ascension to the NASDQ Global Select Market, which Baazov saw as integral to furthering Amaya’s position as “a leading global, online consumer technology company.” The company has traded on the Toronto Stock exchange since 2013 and will continue to do so under a dual listing.
“We were looking for more liquidity and more exposure,” Baazov said, of the company’s new listing. “I think it’s great that a Canadian company that started on the Venture [Exchange] graduated to the TSX and has now gone to the NASDAQ as well.”
New Jersey Update
Finally, Baazov offered his thoughts on the delayed entry of PokerStars into the New Jersey market.
Early predictions had suggested the online poker giant would be given the go-ahead at the beginning of the year, but unseen regulatory issues appear to be hindering its progress.
“We’re giving a lot of information showing statistical data, showing responsible gaming data, showing what technologies have been innovated and applied at PokerStars,” said Baazov. “We’re sharing it with others to show that you can have this in a regulated fashion and have that tax efficiency while you are protecting consumers as well.”
On PokerStars’ efforts in lobbying for regulation in other key areas, such as Pennsylvania and California, he said: “We don’t have a crystal ball, and when it comes to politics I definitely don’t like trying to make predictions. All we can say is that we’re very comfortable with some of the movement we’ve seen. If anything, it’s inching towards more and more (workable) regulation.”