PokerStars in back in the United States ... at least in New Jersey!
More than four years after Black Friday saw both PokerStars and Full Tilt deal their last hands in the U.S., the two sites are headed to the Garden State after the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) and Amaya, owners of the two brands, received approval from regulators.
"We are very pleased to add New Jersey to the long list of regulated markets that have found PokerStars and Full Tilt suitable to offer real-money online gaming," David Baazov, Chairman and CEO of Amaya, said in a press release. "I want to thank the DGE for their thorough and fair review of our business. We look forward to bringing our popular brands, innovative technology, marketing prowess and world-class security and game integrity to the growing New Jersey online gaming market. We anticipate providing additional details of our launch plans in the near future."
Predictably, the return of PokerStars has inspired a whirlwind of speculation.
After an unprecedented review process by the DGE, one that included sworn interviews with more than 70 individuals, has held up Amaya's license since it acquired the two online sites for $4.9 billion back in 2014. It's unknown when Amaya, which is currently partnered with Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, will launch operations, but when they do they'll join the ranks of WSOP.com, 888, party poker, and Borgata as online poker options in New Jersey.
In addition to online poker, New Jersey allows for online casino games such as slots and table games. It's unknown whether or not PokerStars and Full Tilt will offer such games, though it's certainly possible as both clients have that capability.
"Since the acquisition, we have consistently delivered on our stated strategy," Baazov continued. "Today's announcement follows the divesture of our B2B businesses for total gross proceeds of approximately US$524.8 million; the launch of casino games on PokerStars, which we estimate has one of the largest active user bases of any online casino; the refinancing of our long term debt and the reduction of our annual interest expense by approximately US$62 million. We are excited about our new product pipeline and enthusiastic that we will experience growth in existing and emerging markets in the future."
According to politickernj.com, Amaya created Amaya NJ, a "direct, wholly owned subsidiary," to run PokerStars in NJ, this according to a source close to the transaction.
Predictably, the return of PokerStars has inspired a whirlwind of speculation, including whether or not it may lead to the return of the North American Poker Tour (NAPT). Fueling that speculation is the fact that shortly after the PokerStars/New Jersey announcement, an Amaya employee Tweeted that his new job/title was Live Events Manager, North America. Whether or not recent developments will lead to the return of the NAPT remains to be seen.
Of course news of PokerStars reentering the U.S. market energized the poker community, with many chiming in on Twitter:
Congrats @PokerStars Welcome to the Garden State...seems appropriate with @RealKidPoker a Vegan and allFollow @WSOP
Congratulations to PokerStars and Amaya for a space race flag plant Neil Armstrong moment in poker on planet USA.....proud to see progress.Follow @nolandalla
Dear @PokerStars , we here in NJ would like to welcome you with open arms! #muricaFollow @GregMerson
Wooooooooo @PokerStars have been approved for a New Jersey gaming licence!! Back in the US again :D #pokerstars #amayaFollow @Liv_Boeree
Our crew also took the opportunity to discuss the news in the latest edition of the PokerNews Podcast:
PokerNews will have more on PokerStars introduction to New Jersey, and what exactly it means, in the coming days, so be sure to check back often for up-to-the-minute updates.