Is Poker Stars positioning themselves for online poker in the Garden State? US gambling laws currently allow for the individual states in the US to adopt whatever form of online poker legislation they agree upon. But since the change in the Department of Justice opinion came last December, only Delaware and Nevada have decided to legalize online poker play for their residents and travelers located in their state boundaries. While Poker Stars currently enjoys a favorable status with the DOJ, it appears they are making the move into the off-line poker community in New Jersey with their eyes on offering online poker in the near future.
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article pointing out that online poker giant Poker Stars is currently attempting to purchase a struggling casino in Atlantic City. The Atlantic Club Hotel and Casino is currently rumored to have an extremely low $50 million price tag. On the heels of spending a whopping $731 million in a deal that was blessed by the DOJ which involved purchasing Full Tilt Poker and reimbursing thousands of account holders who had their money frozen on Black Friday in 2011, $50 million seems like a drop in the bucket. And even considering the stressful economic times we are seeing in the United States, that still appears to be a bargain price for a hotel and casino.
With no history of running brick-and-mortar casinos or hotel properties, this appears to be an attempt by the well respected Poker Stars to position themselves properly for what many see as an entry into the next state to pass US friendly online poker legislation. New Jersey, California and Ohio have been at the forefront of pushing for online poker since Delaware and Nevada passed legislation favoring poker play on the Internet. And there is no better time than the present for Poker Stars to purchase a discount priced physical casino, as they are currently viewed upon as an online poker White Knight by many in the online gambling community, as well as the DOJ.
By purchasing a well-known land-based casino and hotel, Poker Stars can begin immediately offering online and off-line poker to New Jersey residents and travelers frequenting the Atlantic Club Hotel and Casino. There is no early word as to whether a deal has been reached that would make Poker Stars the new owner of the Atlantic Club, and a spokesperson for Poker Stars would not confirm or deny that the online poker titan would be renaming the casino if the purchase goes through.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement chimed in by saying that any and all license applicants would undergo “rigorous investigation” before being allowed to offer “potential online poker services.” And make no mistake, Poker Stars is only attempting the purchase for two reasons. First off, the purchase price is incredibly attractive. But secondly and more importantly, the company would have their own property in place to offer online poker. And they would be perfectly poised as the premier online poker destination in the Garden State if and when statewide pro-internet poker legislation is passed.