888 CEO Brian Mattingley

888 CEO Brian Mattingley believes PokerStars should be allowed back in the US, but should face a short exclusionary period first. (Image: calvinayre.com)

PokerStars and 888 Poker are natural rivals, as the companies are two of the biggest players in today’s online poker industry. PokerStars is by far the most well-known Internet poker site in the world these days, which may be why 888 CEO Brian Mattingley has previously said that letting the Amaya-owned poker brand back into the US would help all companies, by attracting more players for everyone to share. But now, Mattingley has started to walk back those comments a bit, at least in terms of allowing PokerStars free entry into lucrative American states.

According to an interview between Mattingley and Bluff Magazine‘s Steve Ruddock, the 888 CEO still thinks that PokerStars would be good for the overall American poker economy, and claims he welcomes their return. However, he does think that they gained an unfair advantage by continuing to service players in the US after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) went into effect, and that as a result, they should get at least a slap on the wrist before they’re let back in.

Statement Appears to Contradict Earlier Stance

This is a little different from comments published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal (LVRJ) is June. In an interview with that paper’s Howard Stutz, Mattingley was quoted as saying that he wanted to see PokerStars come back to the United States as soon as possible.

“It would be like unleashing an 800-pound gorilla into the market, but having more players on a regulated site would benefit everyone,” he said.

“We compete with PokerStars throughout Europe,” Mattingley said of his largest rival. “They are a formidable competitor. But they would make all of us work much harder and it would expand the market. I would much rather have a small slice of a large pie, than a big piece of a small pie.”

Those comments differed with ones he made last month to Global Gaming Business. There, he said he was still against “bad actor” clauses that would ban PokerStars from the market entirely, but said that some penalties were appropriate.

“We ought to see the regulators saying that they can come in, but because they were taking wagers illegally for those years, you are going to have to suffer a penalty where you can’t operate for a given period of time,” Mattingley said. “I think two years would make some sense…as competitors, I think we should be allowed to establish our brands, which could be done in two years.”

No Change in Opinion, Says Mattingley

Those seemingly incompatible statements seem to have been clarified in the Bluff interview. In it, Mattingley said that his position has been consistent all along, but that some of what he said to Stutz was not included in the LVRJ article.

According to Mattingley, his statements welcoming PokerStars back to the US markets were followed by a big qualifier, in which he said “…however, I do believe they got that leading edge operating in a market where everyone else was out.”

“They shouldn’t be allowed to walk into new states,” Mattingley told Bluff. He offered up that an exclusion of one to two years would be appropriate and fair to all parties, after which PokerStars should be allowed to compete like anyone else.