PokerStars was forced out of the United States' market by the Department of Justice almost two years ago. The report from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday brought news that the world's leading online poker site is planning to purchase the struggling Atlantic Club casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, prior to the state's legalization of online gambling which would bring the company's return to the States.
Colony Capital is the investment firm that PokerStars is interested in purchasing for around $50 million according to reports and it's believed the casino would be the step for PokerStars' to come back to the online poker market in the U.S.
An amended bill was approved this week by a New Jersey Assembly that would allow licensed casinos in Atlantic City to offer authorized games to residents of the states that would include poker. The newly amended version modified a "bad actor" provision that would have prohibited companies like PokerStars, which served customers in the U.S. after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in 2006.
The bill's modification was related to PokerStars' interest in entering Atlantic City according to State Senator Ray Lesniak.
"I never supported that amendment in the first place," Lesniak told PokerNews.com's Matthew Kredell Friday. "When it was pointed out to us that the previous language would restrict PokerStars entry into New Jersey — and other companies that have rehabilitated themselves and would offer competition to give our casinos the best deals possible — when that was discussed with the assembly sponsor and supporters, it was clear to us that entry into the New Jersey marketplace for a company like PokerStars is something we desire and want."
"I think [UIGEA] was a stupid law to begin with," Lesniak added. "You can't keep people away from Internet poker. But [PokerStars] settled their dispute with the Justice Department, so why would we hold that against them when they have so much to offer in terms of jobs and giving a big boost to our efforts to revitalize the city?"
By the end of the year Lesniak has predicted a bill vote by the Full Assembly on December 17th and a state Senate vote on December 20th could pass the New Jersey bill.
PokerStars settled with the DoJ in August while admitting no wrong doing with the forfeiture of $731 million to the United States when they acquired the assets of their former rival, Full Tilt Poker. PokerStars has since repaid all of Full Tilt's non-U.S. players and relaunched the online poker room to the rest of the world.
PokerStars deal with the DoJ also allowed the company to apply for a gaming license once gaming laws that apply are passed. PokerStars could, if approved for a license, rebrand the Atlantice Club poker room and use the casino to rebuild its U.S.' customer base.
"I think it's great," Lesniak showed enthusiasm for PokerStars' interest in the AC casino. "It shows we're a vibrant market that the largest poker gambling site in the world is looking to invest in New Jersey, and not just to run online gaming but to run a casino. I think it's fabulous."
Check back for updates.