Rational Group has agreed to acquire the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in a deal that would save the struggling casino and pave way for a potential return to the U.S. market for PokerStars.
“The acquisition of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel will secure up to 2,000 jobs and maintain the economic benefits the casino brings to New Jersey,” the two parties said in a joint statement.
Eric Hollreiser, head of corporate communications for the Rational Group, has released no further details, including the purchase price. Sources close to the deal, however, estimate that that casino will be acquired for less than $50 million.
The Atlantic Club, which has struggled under current ownership, would see a liquidity boost “to maintain the required financial stability” under state gaming regulations. The casino recorded a $13.6 million gross operating loss through the first three quarters of 2012, and gambling revenues slipped 11% to $127.2 million.
Sources close to PokerStars think the company will make a “strong case for licensure,” though the deal faces significant legal and regulatory hurdles. If licensed, PokerStars will offer online poker in a regulated state market. The operator also plans to roll out poker tournaments in a branded room in the Atlantic Club Casino.
On December 20, the New Jersey Senate approved a bill to allow Atlantic City casinos to provide online gambling in the state. It now awaits the signature of Gov. Chris Christie, who has until early February to sign or veto the legislation.
As of this week, Rational Group has submitted an application with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement seeking preliminary regulatory approval to buy the Atlantic Club from Resorts International Holdings. The company, which is expected to face fierce scrutiny, will go before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission for final approval.
The Atlantic Club is currently owned by investment firm Colony Capital, who bought the casino from Hilton Hotels in 2004. It originally opened in 1980 as the Golden Nugget and was owned by gambling tycoon Steve Wynn.