Poker News

Internet gaming firms may be having some issues trying to enter the United States online poker market, but it appears that one may be about to enter the brick-and-mortar arena. Rational Group, parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, has entered into an agreement to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in Atlantic City from Resorts International Holdings.

According to an article in The Press of Atlantic City by Donald Wittkowski, the Rational Group has filed an application with New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement to begin the process of interim casino authorization. Once that process is completed, it will still be up to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to give final approval. The Division of Gaming Enforcement’s investigation can last a maximum of 90 days, while the Casino Control Commission will have 30 days to complete its end of things.

“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 Rational Group said in a statement along with the casino’s COO Michael Frawley.

The Rational Group has also expressed its commitment to rehabilitating the casino’s business, saying, “Rational US is a willing and enthusiastic prospective purchaser, and it intends to improve the financial viability of the property, and, therefore, the offerings available in Atlantic City.”

The Atlantic Club is one of Atlantic City’s oldest casinos, built in 1980 by Steve Wynn’s Golden Nugget Companies and Michael Milken (it was originally named the Golden Nugget). It was the sixth casino built in Atlantic City, which had only legalized gambling four years prior. Wynn sold the property at Boston Avenue and the Boardwalk in 1987 to Bally Manufacturing, which changed the name to Bally’s Grand. The casino’s name changed once again when Hilton Hotels Corporation bought Bally Entertainment and it became known as the Atlantic City Hilton. The casino was sold again in 2005 to Resorts International Holdings and was renamed to Atlantic Club in 2012, when it was renovated and marketed as a locals casino.

Atlantic Club has been struggling financially, seeing a $13.6 million gross operating loss through the first three quarters of 2012. Its 2012 gambling revenue dropped 11 percent to $127.2 million, ranking it 10th of the 12 Atlantic City casinos.

This deal might not have been were it not for a late edit to the bill that passed through the state legislature in December that would permit online gambling in the state. Added was a section that permits offshore gaming firms to apply for New Jersey casino licenses, something that was not originally in the legislation. Thus, Rational Group can begin its approval process.

This is not the company’s first foray into brick-and-mortar gaming. In October, PokerStars entered into a deal with the Hippodrome Casino in London to upgrade and renovate its poker room and then rebrand it with the PokerStars name. In December, PokerStars inked a partnership with Casino Gran Madrid to build a new PokerStars-branded poker room in the Spanish casino.

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