Since the blockbuster announcement that PokerStars had been sold to Amaya Gaming in early June, the poker world has been told it’s only a matter of time before PokerStars is licensed in New Jersey, a proclamation usually accompanied by the refrain of, “it will happen sooner rather than later.”
That being said, we are almost three months into the AmayaStars reign (the sale was finalized in early August) and there is still no sign of PokerStars in New Jersey, and nothing in the way of an official announcement.
New Jersey online poker players may not be standing on their balconies wondering aloud, “Wherefore art thou PokerStars?” but their desire to see the world’s largest online poker site return to the U.S. market is beginning to turn into despair after several rumors of PokerStars’ imminent return have failed to materialize.
Rumors of a New Jersey launch began almost immediately after the sale.
Just after the sale of PokerStars to Amaya was first announced in June, the head of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJ DGE), David Rebuck, told Pokerfuse the DGE was “encouraged by this development.”
Less than two weeks later, on June 26th, the DGE went a step further, stating that PokerStars’ licensing application was now under review as part of Amaya’s ongoing licensing process, according to the Associated Press. This ended PokerStars’ two-year license application suspension the DGE imposed back in December of 2013 – a suspension predicated on the continued role of key individuals in the company, an issue put to rest following the sale to Amaya.
In August, a host of rumors began swirling in the poker community (publicly and behind the scenes) that PokerStars would be ready to go in early to mid-October.
In September, New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak told PokerNews that he expected PokerStars to be approved “soon,” perhaps in the next few weeks. Lesniak’s rather vague and noncommittal timeline matched up with the earlier rumors of a mid-October launch; a launch that never happened.
What’s the holdup?
The reason why PokerStars is not yet operational in New Jersey depends on who you ask.
Senator Lesniak was quick to throw New Jersey Governor Chris Christie under the bus during a somewhat candid Twitter exchange on Tuesday night.
It should be noted that the Governor has no legal authority to block the DGE from granting a license.
Another possible explanation is with the elections drawing near, PokerStars has become a political football of sorts, with nobody wanting to tackle the issue in the run-up to the mid-term elections, which has the potential to tie their name to a company that was indicted by the Department of Justice in 2011.
Yet another possible reason for the delay is PokerStars themselves.
Having seen the issues other sites have experienced in New Jersey with their software (partly due to the DGE’s testing process which caused the operators to strip out many features from their platforms until the DGE ok’s them), PokerStars may feel that pushing back their launch date is better than launching with a stripped down version of their product that may draw criticism from players who have come to expect excellence from the company.
There could also be behind the scenes lobbying by PokerStars’ future New Jersey rivals.
There could be influence coming from Sheldon Adelson and the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), which can be directly and indirectly tied to several anti-PokerStars op-eds penned in New Jersey papers over the past couple months.
The fact is, it could be any one of these things, a combination of them, or all of them that has delayed PokerStars’ New Jersey launch.
The good news is that the failure to launch seems like it’s only a delay (technical, regulatory, or political), and not something that will be a deal-breaker.
When should we expect PokerStars to launch in New Jersey?
Based on several conversations I’ve had, I would be shocked if PokerStars wasn’t up and running in New Jersey by the end of the year.
The October 15th timeline that was being bandied about in August and September was real, but by early October this date was already seen as untenable due to delays.
My best estimation is the site will be approved in the days or weeks following the mid-term elections (decreasing the ability for politicians to turn PokerStars into a political football) and will launch before the calendar turns to December – how ironic would it be if PokerStars returned to the U.S. on the Friday after Thanksgiving… Black Friday.
It could be sooner, or it could be later, but if we hit Christmas and PokerStars is still nowhere to be found, and no official announcement has been made, then I would start to worry that the delays may have turned into serious problems.