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NJ to Rule in August on PokerStars' Bid to Buy Casino

PokerStars’ attempt to purchase the Atlantic Club casino and enter the U.S. online poker market via New Jersey will be decided by the state Casino Control Commission in August.

The timetable was set in motion when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) announced that the Rational Group’s application for a casino license was completed on April 10. As the parent company of PokerStars, Rational began discussions to acquire the floundering casino in December. However, the initial application submitted to gaming officials was found to be lacking certain particulars.

With the application now fully complete, the DGE will commence an investigation of PokerStars and has 90 days to file their findings with the commission, putting the deadline at July 9. The Casino Control Commission is allowed 30 days after that to hold a hearing and make a decision on PokerStars’ suitability for casino licensure.

PokerStars is banking on acquiring the Atlantic Club Hotel and Casino and forging their way into the U.S. online poker market. The idea is to dominate the American marketplace as they do in nearly every other jurisdiction throughout the world. PokerStars has applied in Delaware in hopes of being a part of that state’s Internet gambling scheme, but the company chosen as the primary vendor in Delaware will have a large say in controlling most of that action.

PokerStars has not applied in Nevada, where a bad actor clause will likely keep them out of the picture until 2018. The top online poker site still has the option of challenging their status as a bad actor in Nevada in a court of law. If they could somehow prove that the UIGEA was not violated, they could lose their designation as a bad actor. But with New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware being the only three states that have enacted online poker and gambling legislation thus far, PokerStars’ best shot appears to be in New Jersey.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has strongly opposed PokerStars’ attempt to muscle their way into the U.S. market in the Garden State. The AGA has petitioned New Jersey gaming officials to block the acquisition, stating that ‘Stars built their empire on deceit and unlawfulness by willfully violating the UIGEA almost seven years ago.

PokerStars fired back at the AGA petition, calling the filing a misguided attempt to promote anti-competitiveness in the marketplace. PokerStars cited their 2012 purchase of Full Tilt in which they admitted no wrongdoing regarding the Black Friday fallout and received somewhat of a blessing from the U.S. Department of Justice to enter the American market whenever it is legal to do so.

In mid-March, the commission held a meeting in which the merits of the AGA petition were to be considered. However, the issue was removed from the docket when officials decided that more time was needed to review the petition.

The odds of PokerStars being found unsuitable by New Jersey gaming officials are extremely high. With Governor Chris Christie aiming to recharge the Atlantic City casinos and already factoring online gambling revenue into his 2014 budget, who better to invite to the party than PokerStars?

New Jersey had a bad actor clause written into its first draft of the online gambling bill. But that provision was conveniently removed. Sen. Ray Lesniak, the biggest supporter of the online gambling bill signed by Christie in February, has practically already christened their arrival.

“PokerStars is the biggest company in online poker, and we should welcome them bringing their American headquarters to New Jersey,” Lesniak said.

You can roll out the red carpet now instead of waiting until August.



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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.