PokerStars Announces Launch Date for New Jersey Online Poker Site

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Despite having several obstacles thrown in their path – and getting through each of them – it was announced late Thursday that PokerStars, the #1 online poker site in the international poker industry, would once again be allowed to play on U. S. shores, albeit only in the state of New Jersey at this time.

Amaya Gaming chairman David Baazov made the announcement that many in the online poker community in the United States had been waiting for – that PokerStars would go “live” for New Jersey residents on March 21. “PokerStars is the global leader in online poker and trusted by its customers for its robust and innovative technology, world-class security and game integrity,” he stated during the announcement of PokerStars’ return. “We are honored and excited to now bring these experiences to New Jersey.”

The full-online gaming market of New Jersey has been awaiting the addition of the PokerStars juggernaut for some time now. As a new addition to the Garden State’s online gaming industry, it will not only bring the valued PokerStars name to the shores of the U. S., but it will also bring the full casino gaming outlet – slots, blackjack, table games, etc. – under the PokerStars brand through Amaya’s other properties. As were the other sites in the New Jersey industry, there will be a “soft” period for a couple of days as the site’s activities are watched by gaming regulators but, by the end of the week (March 24 or 25), the PokerStars site should be fully active and ready for customers.

The long journey to that March 21 opening day has been an arduous one for PokerStars, however. Forced out of the U. S. market when the dark days of “Black Friday” struck in 2011, PokerStars long had tried to find a way to get a linchpin into U. S. gaming, be it live or online. They fought the U. S. government over its indictment of founder Isai Scheinberg and fiscal officer Paul Tate for quite some time until, in 2012, deciding to settle with the federal government for a $731 million fine while admitting no wrongdoing.

In 2013, the company saw their golden opportunity come when New Jersey joined Nevada and Delaware in regulating online gaming and/or poker outlets. At that time owned by the Rational Group (and the Scheinberg family), PokerStars attempted to gain entrance to the New Jersey market by ownership of a casino (as each online site had to partner with one of the then-dozen “brick and mortar” casinos in Atlantic City to be able to operate). In late 2013, PokerStars tried to purchase the Atlantic Club, but that deal fell through amidst accusations of improper negotiations on both sides.

With the deal to own a casino now dead, PokerStars and Rational partnered with Resorts Casino Hotel with the hopes of being “live” by the midpoint of 2014. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, however, had other plans, deeming that the continued involvement of the Scheinberg family in the day-to-day operations of PokerStars and the Rational Group (which was supposed to cease under the agreement with the U. S. Department of Justice) wasn’t acceptable and tabled their licensing.

Enter Amaya Gaming and Baazov. In 2014, Amaya put together a stunning $4.9 billion deal to purchase PokerStars from the Scheinbergs and continued to drive forward with the New Jersey licensing procedures. By the fall of 2015 (and after another extended investigative period by the DGE over Amaya’s purchase of PokerStars), New Jersey officials finally approved PokerStars for operation and it has taken to this time for Amaya to feel comfortable with launching in the state.

The question will be what effect will the launching of PokerStars Casino (with Resorts) have on the New Jersey online gaming industry. Although the casino side of the equation has been thriving with New Jersey residents (averaging about $10 million per month in 2015), poker has lagged far behind. Revenues are down in year-to-year comparisons with last year at this time and, overall, the poker revenues have hovered around the $2 million mark through 2015. Add into the mix that there are only two players in the online poker game in New Jersey – Borgata/Party and Caesars/888 – and PokerStars’ arrival in New Jersey will either bring a wave of new players to the market or (as many think) the PokerStars arrival will see them poach players off from the other poker sites as the online casino tries to find a foothold in the Jersey market.

It will take a bit before we can get a full look at what might happen. With their testing and “soft” openings, the April revenue information will be the first one where we might see what effect PokerStars/Resorts is having on the New Jersey online gaming scene. For now, however, U. S. poker aficionados are glad to welcome back an old friend in PokerStars.

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