Amaya CEO David Baazov stated about six months ago that he anticipated PokerStars to be approved and up and running in New Jersey by the end of Q3 of this year.
Looking at the calendar we see that 2015’s third quarter will soon come to an end, and the red spade of PokerStars continues to be missing from the list of licensed and available poker sites in New Jersey. What gives o ye who are in charge of the “Application Approved” rubber stamp down at the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement? Run out of ink for the stamp pad?
If only the answer were that simple. According to DGE Director David Rebuck, there is much to consider about PokerStars’ license application, and most of it centers around the purchase of Rational Group by Amaya for a reported $1.4 billion. PokerStars applied for its online gaming license in the Garden State as a Rational Group entity, but the sale to Amaya last year has resulted in an extensive vetting process by the DGE.
Caution Behind Delay?
Rebuck told Global Gaming Business that DGE representatives have interviewed 80 individuals about the acquisition, leaving no stone unturned in a “thorough, comprehensive review” of Amaya’s suitability. The DGE honchos have also racked up their frequent flyer mileage in the process, traveling to “half a dozen foreign countries” while conducting their investigation. Let’s hope those DGE reps have the stomach for airline food.
It seems the DGE is bending over backward on the side of caution on the matter, as their decision could have ramifications on decisions made by the legislatures of other states that may be contemplating online poker and gambling regulation. If the “bad actor” issue is resolved by the DGE’s exhaustive review, it could have an effect elsewhere in the U.S., most notably Pennsylvania, California and New York, at present.
“We’re going to do this in a very professional way which will be published to the world, because whatever decision we come down on will be scrutinized, and some will hate it and some will love it,” Rebuck said. “It will be done in a way that I can, through this division, have pride in saying this is accurate.”
Christie and Adelson Behind Delay?
The aim for accuracy is commendable and we would expect nothing less from the DGE. But how much of the delay is actually related to the interviews and investigation? Could it be that Sheldon Adelson’s opposition had a hand in prolonging the decision? And that NJ Governor Chris Christie favored a delay as well?
Rumors to that effect circulated heavily earlier this year. New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak put the blame for the slowdown on both, believing that the two were in cahoots and “playing presidential politics” as the governor considered a run for the White House and perhaps asked the DGE to hold off on the license approval as a favor to Adelson, a likely donor to his campaign.
In any event, we continue to wait for PokerStars’ approval, which is looking more and more like it won’t happen in Q3