Amaya Gaming Group has agreed to purchase PokerStars and Full Tilt for the sum of $4.9 billion contingent on approval of Amaya shareholders.
The purchase had been grinding through the rumor mill for the past couple of weeks and has now been confirmed as factual via a press release issued by Amaya. The transaction includes the Rational Group, parent company of both FTP and PokerStars, as well as the Oldford Group, listed as Rational’s parent company.
The $4.9 billion purchase requires PokerStars CEO Mark Scheinberg
and other principals of Oldford Group to dispose of their stock in the company and resign. PokerStars and Full Tilt will continue operating uninterrupted with the existing executive managers in place retaining their positions.
PokerStars has been desperately trying to get a toehold in the regulated U.S. online gambling market and has continually run into snags due to remaining within the unregulated U.S. market following enactment of the UIGEA in 2006. The sale to Amaya Gaming, which already has a strong presence within the U.S., is seen as a way to achieve that goal.
PokerStars’ online gaming license application in New Jersey was suspended by state regulators due to founder Isai Scheinberg’s failure to answer to Black Friday charges of running an illegal gambling business, among other offenses. Isai Scheinberg is the father of Mark, and both will no longer be associated with the company once Amaya takes over control.
That may satisfy the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, who promised to re-evaluate PokerStars’ application if circumstances warranted further review. The sale to Amaya and the subsequent disappearance of the Scheinbergs is likely one such circumstance.
PokerStars has also partnered with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the three largest card clubs in California in an effort to enter the U.S. market via that jurisdiction. A “bad actor” clause is included in the latest proposed online poker bills in the Garden State, a designation that may no longer fully apply to PokerStars once Amaya shareholders approve of the deal, which is expected.
However, there may remain roadblocks to breaking into the U.S. market via California, but the press release makes no mention of anticipated problems, believing instead that the acquisition
will expedite the entry of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker into regulated markets in which Amaya already holds a footprint, particularly the USA.
It has long been thought by many that PokerStars would somehow and some way find a way into the regulated U.S. online poker and gambling market. That market is expected to open up considerably in the future as more states follow the lead of Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.
There remains the anti-online gambling crowd led by Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. However, with many states desperate to create more means in which to generate tax revenue, online poker is seen as such a way since players in the U.S. will visit unregulated sites if regulation is not available.