New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak believes the Rational Group, PokerStars parent company, will not have any trouble getting state approval for purchasing the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel.
"They're a huge international company with a tremendous amount of resources," Lesniak said in a phone interview. Lesniak has been the leading sponsor in New Jersey's Internet gambling legislation and it is now awaiting Gov. Chris Christie's decision. "They've operated throughout the world without any difficulty. The legal issues that they had with the Justice Department were not the type of legal issues that have been of great concern to us.
"Atlantic City and New Jersey have a very thorough regulatory process. That's because of the influence of organized crime that was rampant in New Jersey decades ago. That's not an issue here with PokerStars. What they did is not the same level of illegal activity that we have to be concerned about in New Jersey and elsewhere in terms of the gaming industry."
The Press of Atlantic City first reported that Rational Group has a deal in place to purchase the Atlantic City Club and papers have been filed with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to seek regulatory approval for the deal.
The division has up to 90 days to conduct its investigation and file a report with the Casino Control Commission, which then has up to 30 days to conduct a hearing and reach a final decision. Once the final regulatory approval from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission has been received, the deal will close.
"This is a big, big boost to Atlantic City and its revival," Lesniak said. "I think it's important for the success of Atlantic City to have investors like PokerStars."
A source has reported that the deal between Rational Group and the Atlantic Club could be contingent on Christie's signing Lesniak's Internet gambling bill. It's widely known that owning a United States based casino is the perfect step for PokerStars to return to the U.S. through New Jersey.
The New Jersey legislation that passed through the state Senate on December 20th, would allow Atlantic City casinos to offer online poker to state residents. It is a very high probability that other states may reach agreements with New Jersey in the future to form a bigger player pool.
According to Lesniak, Christie has until February 4th to sign, veto, or allow the bill to proceed without action. Lesniak put a similar bill on Christie's desk in March 2011 but the governor vetoed it. In a bit of a strange political dance during Christie's state-of-the-state address in January 2012, he appeared to be receptive to the idea of Internet gambling coming to the state through Atlantic City; but throughout the year he appeared to waver on the issue. Christie did not mention his plans in last week's state-of-the-state address.
Hurriane Sandy took its toll and Atlantic City is facing even more financial woes with the shock to tourism which leads most people to believe that Christie will approve the bill this time. He waited until the last possible day to veto the bill in 2011 and each day that it sets on his desk with no action creates doubt.
Lesniak and his fellow Democratic leaders in the New Jersey legislature have sent a letter to Christie that urges him to sign the bill.
"If the governor doesn't sign my Internet gaming bill, there will be at least one casino and probably others that will have to close their doors, and thousands of people will lose their jobs in Atlantic City," Lesniak said. "Without additional revenue from Internet gaming, that's what will happen."