PokerStars Strikes Deal to Enter New Jersey
It has been both a good week and a bad week for online poker giant PokerStars.
First, the bad news: a New Jersey judge denied the company’s appeal of a decision upholding the termination of its purchase contract to take over the embattled Atlantic City land-based casino the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel.
The despair was short-lived, however, as news broke today that the parent company of PokerStars, Isle of Man-based the Rational Group, has struck a deal with another New Jersey casino to partner in an online gambling venture to serve Garden State residents.
PokerStars to partner with Resorts
A mere two days after learning that the Atlantic Club acquisition would not move forward, it was announced that PokerStars will team up with Resorts, Inc. Resorts is Atlantic City’s oldest property; it opened to the public back in 1978. PokerStars is the world’s largest online poker room, having recently celebrated the playing of the 100 billionth hand of poker on the site.
Remarking on today’s news, Resorts’ Chairman Morris Bailey said, “This is another blue chip partner for Resorts to complete a wonderful series of brands – Mohegan Sun, Margaritaville and now PokerStars.”
Officials from the Rational Group were equally elated at the deal, as it will mark a re-entry for the company after its US-facing rooms were shut down over two years ago by the US government. Last year the company settled a case in New York federal court without admitting to any wrongdoing.
“Resorts is a fantastic partner for us and we are looking forward to launch PokerStars in the U.S. in association with the other quality brands Resorts has brought to Atlantic City,” said Rational Group CEO Mark Scheinberg. “We are very happy to invest in New Jersey and we are excited about building a successful relationship with Resorts.”
As for that appeal denial…
PokerStars had been seeking an overturning of an earlier decision that upheld the termination of a contract between PokerStars and the Atlantic Club that was signed in December of last year. PokerStars, having already paid $11 million toward a $15 million total purchase price, claimed to be blindsided when the Atlantic Club notified them that the deal was off in late April.
In a nutshell, the contract stipulated a drop-dead date by which PokerStars was required to obtain an interim operating license from New Jersey state gaming regulators. Due to delays, that date came and went without completion of the application process, at which point the Atlantic Club exercised their right to halt the sale.
The Atlantic Club’s chief operating officer, Michael Frawley, said earlier this week that the casino was “obviously very pleased” that the decision of the lower court was upheld. Under the terms of the contract, the Atlantic Club will be permitted to keep the $11 million it received in up front payments from PokerStars.
“Our intentions have, and will continue to be focused on the aggressive pursuit of New Jersey’s emerging online gaming opportunities,” Frawley was quoted as saying.
Today’s announcement leaves only two properties without partnership deal
With today’s news that PokerStars will partner with Resorts, only two land-based Atlantic City casinos are without partnership agreements for Internet gaming. Those two properties are the aforementioned Atlantic Club and Revel, Atlantic City’s newest property, which emerged from bankruptcy protection back in May. Incidentally, Revel and the Atlantic Club rank among Atlantic City’s worst-performing properties in terms of revenue.