With the ink still wet on the $4.9 billion purchase agreement brokered between Amaya Gaming Group and PokerStars, discussions are scheduled for today with New Jersey regulators regarding the online gaming giant’s entry into the marketplace.
That entry has thus far been denied, first due to the failed attempt of parent company Rational Group to purchase the Atlantic Club and then by New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) officials who found fault with PokerStars’ founder Isai Scheinberg avoiding Black Friday allegations of operating an illegal gambling business, among other charges.
The acquisition agreement with Amaya calls for the Scheinberg family (father Isai and son Mark) to divest themselves of any interest in the company. That reportedly pleases DGE honchos and will likely pave the way for PokerStars to be granted an online gaming license under the new ownership of Amaya.
The current status of PokerStars’ application to operate gaming sites in New Jersey is a two-year suspension issued late last year, but regulators promised to re-visit the matter once the company’s situation had changed, and that it has. Under new direction of the Canadian-based Amaya Gaming, PokerStars’ tarnished bad actor image has been transformed to that of not-so-bad actor.
PokerStars is well-respected globally and holds almost as many online poker licenses as Phil Hellmuth has WSOP titles. It is only in America that the credibility of online poker’s top dog remains in question due to failure to adhere to the UIGEA in 2006. But the sale to Amaya likely changes that, at least in New Jersey at the moment.
We’ve had discussions with Amaya to reactivate the application, and we plan to begin discussions with them tomorrow,” DGE director David Rebuck told the Associated Press yesterday. “I think in the long run it will be a good story for New Jersey. I’m optimistic that they know what the rules are, and I fully expect them to be very aggressive because they want to be here.”
Internet gambling revenue has tumbled in New Jersey as of late, one of the reasons why the DGE is preparing to roll out the red carpet for PokerStars. Rational had previously promised to open a live poker room in Atlantic City and base its U.S. headquarters in New Jersey if gaming regulators gave rubber-stamped approval to their online gaming license application.
Whether Amaya will use a page from that playbook and center its U.S. operations in the Garden State remains to be seen. But the Canadian company already has ties to New Jersey via a partnership with Caesars Interactive.
A new license application with Amaya listed as the applicant instead of the Rational Group may be submitted to the DGE before the end of June. Rebuck indicated that PokerStars may be up and running in New Jersey by autumn.
The approval of PokerStars may have a positive effect throughout the country with regard to other states taking a more serious tone toward enacting online poker and gambling legislation. New Jersey is expected to eventually partake in interstate compact agreements with other states in order to increase player liquidity in online poker. Many states will likely want to be a part of that collaboration.