PokerStars Closes Door on Atlantic Club Casino Purchase
One of the stranger sagas in America’s fledgling market for regulated online poker drew to an effective close yesterday, as PokerStars confirmed that they have abandoned their plans to purchase the New Jersey casino property the Atlantic Club Casino.
Reports of the decision were confirmed by a statement from PokerStars’ corporate spokesperson Eric Hollreiser, who made it clear that the company was “no longer pursuing an acquisition” of the ACC.
Legal action will continue over advanced money
While purchase of the ACC may be off the table, that doesn’t quite bring the sordid tale of corporate intrigue to a close.
PokerStars’ parent company, Rational, had already paid the Atlantic Club some $11 million toward the total purchase price of the casino. In addition, the purchase agreement between PokerStars and the ACC calls for PokerStars to pay an additional termination fee of $4 million in the case where the purchase was not completed.
Rational will apparently continue legal action against the Atlantic Club in an attempt to not only recover the money paid toward purchase, but also to avoid the termination fee.
In a somewhat ironic twist, the total of the money paid by Rational to date ($14 million) and the termination fee ($4 million) neatly equals what was established as the total purchase price for the Atlantic Club – $15 million.
It’s not immediately clear what Rational’s next legal step is in the process.
PokerStars’ path to New Jersey now runs through proposed partner Resorts
While PokerStars is no longer in the running to purchase the ACC (which is now rumored to be the acquisition target of either Kentucky-based Churchill Downs or Pennsylvania-based Sugar House Casino), that doesn’t mean the poker site has thrown in the towel on New Jersey.
The alternate route for PokerStars now runs through their proposed partner Resorts Casino. The two announced plans for a partnership that would see PokerStars provide technology and expertise and the land-based casino Resorts provide licensing (and possibly branding) for a joint venture seeking to operate in the regulated market for online gambling in New Jersey.
That partnership will still have to pass muster with New Jersey authorities, who are in the process of evaluating not only that relationship, but also the suitability of almost a dozen other partnerships between New Jersey casinos and international operators such as Betfair, bwin.party and Gamesys.
New Jersey officials continue to publicly set their sights on a November launch date for regulated online gambling in the state, although how many operators will be taking part in that launch and what specific games they will be offering both remain open questions.
Company remains active in other states considering regulation
In addition to their New Jersey hopes, PokerStars continues to look for opportunities in other states that look poised to offer legal online poker in the United States.
The next major battleground for the company appears to be California, which observers believe to be quickly heading for some form of regulated online gambling. Reports from multiple sources back in June indicated that PokerStars had already deployed a substantial lobbying team to the halls of the Sacramento statehouse to argue for the suitability of the site to operate in a California market.
In addition, observers also suggested that PokerStars was close to linking up with local casino Hawaiian Gardens as a potential California partner, although there has been little followup talk of that relationship since the initial reports.
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