The Wall Street Journal reported in December that Rational Group, owner of online poker giant PokerStars, was interested in purchasing a New Jersey casino and the move was looked upon as a way to reenter the U.S. The Press of Atlantic City reports that Rational Group has moved forward with the purchase of the Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City.
Eric Hollreiser, Rational Group's head of corporate communications, confirmed to PokerNews.com on Tuesday, January 15th, that the company has agreed to acquire the casino from Resorts International Holdings. Hollreiser said the transaction is pending a grant of an Interim Casino Authorization by the relevant New Jersey authorities.
The investigation by the division has 90 days to conclude and file a report with the Casino Control Commission. The Commission would then have up to 30 days to conduct a hearing and make their final decision. After the final regulatory approval from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, the sale would close.
The approval would mark the first time a brick-and-mortar casino in Atlantic City was acquired by an Internet gaming company. Rational Group says it "intends to improve the financial viability of the property" in the struggling seaside city.
"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," Hollreiser said. "During this interim period, the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel will operate as normal under current management, who will be retained following completion of the acquisition.”
The general consensus is that PokerStars purchase of the Atlantic Club Casino is the step to reenter the online poker market in the United States. The bill waiting for the approval of Gov. Chris Christie is on his desk. New Jersey lawmakers approved a bill last month that would authorize Atlantic City Casinos to offer online poker and casino games.
Although Rational Group left the U.S. market on April 15, 2011, the company finalized a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in August, 2012. The settlement did not admit to any wrongdoing, Rational Group forfeited $731 million to the U.S., and at the same time acquired the assets of former PokerStars' rival Full Tilt Poker. Rational Group repaid all of Full Tilt's non-U.S. customers and relaunched the online poker room in much of the world as part of the deal.
Also included in the deal, Rational Group could apply for a gaming license once the applicable laws are passed. It is believed that if approved for a license, the rebranding of the Atlantic Club poker room, along with the casino, would be a platform to rebuild PokerStars' customer base in the U.S.