Hopes surged high among PokerStars supporters in New Jersey when Amaya took over the Rational Group to become the new owner of the PokerStars brand. The arrival of the world’s largest and most popular online poker brand in NJ had seemed imminent, as many perceived that with the Canadian gaming company at the helm, securing an online gambling license in the Garden State would be just a breeze. Unfortunately, it has not turned out that way.
Early this year, Amaya CEO Baazov voiced optimism that the NJ regulators’ approval for the Amaya PokerStars brand will come around by the end of the third quarter of 2015. However, with only a month remaining in this year’s 3rd quarter, it appears that the decision whether to approve or not, PokerStar’s entry into NJ’s online gambling market is still a difficult one to make, as far as the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) is concerned.
NJDGE Director David Rebuck has seen it fit to explain what exactly is going on regarding the Amaya PokerStars NJ license application. In an interview conducted by Global Gaming Business, Director Rebuck asserts that they are leaving no stones unturned in evaluating Amaya’s PokerStars license petition. According to the NJDGE Head, the division’s representatives are undertaking a comprehensive review of Amaya’s suitability. The focus of which is Amaya’s purchase of former PokerStars owner, the Rational Group.
Apparently, Mr. Rebuck is referring to the insider trading investigation being carried out by Canada’s Autorité des Marches Financiers. The probe is in relation to the securities trading involving the shares of stocks of the Canadian gaming company, and the significance of the securities transactions to Amaya’s $1.4 billion acquisition of The Rational Group and its PokerStars brand.
Director Rebuck explained further that the vetting process has to be conducted in a professional way, which so far has entailed interviewing more than 80 people and traveling to foreign countries. He added that whatever decision they make will be scrutinized not only in the U.S. but also internationally, since this could have an effect in other U.S. states, particularly those contemplating on legalizing online gambling. Mr. Rebuck conveyed that the Amaya PokerStars vetting process would be carried out in a way that would enable him, to take pride in saying that the decision of the division is accurate.
However, observers to the situation have their own interpretation as to why the NJDGE Head was constrained to share information about the vetting process surrounding the Amaya PokerStars license application. As it was, rumors have been circulating that the delay is in some ways politically motivated. No less than NJ Senator Ray Lesniak voiced opinion of his belief that Governor Christie has a hand in causing the delay. Rumor mills have it that the NJ Governor is trying to win the financial support of Sands casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, in order to augment campaign funds for his presidential bid.
Nonetheless, Director Rebuck’s explanations have somehow cleared the clouds of doubt that have been slowly turning into a controversial issue, especially for those who believe that the NJDGE is taking too long to come down with a decision.