The parent company of online poker sites PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker has submitted a purchasing proposal for the Atlantic Club casino as part of its strategy to enter the US gambling market. The deal is contingent on approval from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, but would provide a significant investment to turn around one of Atlantic City’s most struggling casinos. The timing of the agreement is significant as New Jersey is awaiting Governor Chris Christie to pass or reject an online gambling bill.
Rational Group owns the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker domains, and has plans to reenter the US gambling market after the fallout of the Black Friday poker scandal in 2011. A report from Atlantic City near the end of 2012 suggested the Rational Group had been interested in buying a stake in one of the casinos in order to open a specially branded PokerStars poker room as the first step of its strategy. The current Atlantic Club ownership group has been unable to turn a profit, having lost over $10 million in 2012 – which is indicative the group was looking to sell.
The purchase agreement has been praised by both sides of the deal with current Atlantic Club COO Michael Frawley stating the sale to the Rational Group is in the best interests of casino employees.
“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.”
While the Rational Group has declined to offer any additional comments about the deal including how much they paid for the casino, the timing of the announcement is significant due to proposed changes to online gambling laws in New Jersey. The legislature passed an online gambling bill at the end of 2012 that awaits the signature of Governor Chris Christie. If passed, the law would allow online gambling operators – including foreign owned companies like the Rational Group – to provide their services as long as the servers are located within Atlantic City casinos.
The approval of the sale could take as much as 4 months for the gaming enforcement organizations to complete, while Governor Christie has until the end of January to endorse or veto the online gambling bill. Pundits are fairly confident that Christie will support the online gambling legislation, which the Rational Group will use to relaunch its PokerStars online service from the Atlantic Club casino.