Caesars Interactive Entertainment approached PokerStars in February and offered to sell both the Rio Casino in Las Vegas and the WSOP brand, Forbes reported.
PokerStars had previously made a bid on the Atlantic Club casino in New Jersey and “declined the offer because we had no plans to acquire another casino in the near term,” said Eric Hollreiser, head of corporate communications of Rational Group, parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt.
A day earlier, PokerStars was assaulted with a legal filing by the American Gaming Association that seeks to prevent the world’s top poker site from acquiring the struggling Atlantic City casino and getting a foot in the door of the online gambling market. The AGA has urged New Jersey gaming officials to turn down PokerStars’ application, calling the site a “criminal enterprise.”
PokerStars flouted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006 and continued catering to U.S. customers. That alleged unlawfulness allowed PokerStars to become the worldwide leader in online poker, thoroughly dominating the market. The AGA represents a number of casino companies, including Caesars, who find it unfair that PokerStars may not be penalized for virtually ignoring the UIGEA.
Nevada’s online poker bill prohibits companies that serviced the U.S. after Dec. 31, 2006 from operating in the state for a period of five years. However, New Jersey’s online gambling bill signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Feb. 26 does not include such a bad actor provision. Sen. Ray Lesniak, the bill’s sponsor, has even rolled out the welcome mat.
“New investment in Atlantic City is good for New Jersey,” Lesniak stated. “PokerStars is the biggest company in online poker and we should welcome them bringing their American headquarters to New Jersey.”
Although some industry insiders believe such an offer was never made, Hollreiser stated that Caesars implied that purchasing the Rio would be beneficial for PokerStars in obtaining online poker licensing in Nevada. Whether or not they would be able to convince Nevada gaming officials is debatable. However, selling the WSOP brand does not seem prudent, considering its stature as the game’s most elite and recognizable tournament series worldwide. Caesars also plans to operate WSOP.com in Nevada’s online poker regime.
PokerStars’ argument is that they admitted no wrongdoing and received the U.S. DoJ’s blessing upon acquiring the assets of Full Tilt Poker last year. The company cites its current lofty standing in the online gaming industry and points to the fact that it holds gambling licenses in nearly a dozen jurisdictions.