It is now common knowledge that Atlantic City will be entering the online gaming market in as little as 18 months. It can also be assumed that Caesars will have a big hand in that as they own four of the twelve casinos operating today. While it is generally agreed that Nevada will enter the market with poker only, that is not necessarily the case with Atlantic City. The biggest question on a lot of people’s minds is whether the Oldford Group (owners of PokerStars and now Full Tilt Poker) will have any place in the new Atlantic City landscape.
At first glance one would assume that their offer to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel and their continuing investments in the property (over $10 million so far), along with their solid online presence would make them a shoe-in; but things are never that easy in AC. Last month the AGA (American Gambling Association) petitioned NJ regulators to bar them. This is the first time since their inception in 1995 that the AGA has involved itself publicly in a licensing matter.
Of course a recommendation by a Washington DC business association will not make the difference, but the reasons they bring up could very well spell ruin for the enterprise. On the other hand another thing to keep in mind is that although people tend to consider AC to be the most stringent of places when it comes to licensing gambling due to the history of the Casino Control Commission. The Division of Gaming Enforcement (who answer to the Christie administration) now holds all of the cards until this thing goes to the CCC and then to the courts, which it most likely will when the license is denied.
Keep in mind that not even Hugh Hefner was consider of ‘good enough moral character’ to obtain a license and recall that PokerStars decided to keep on playing after the UIGEA of 2006, costing them the indictment of their founder Isai Scheinberg who is still considered a fugitive from justice. The over a half a billion dollar forfeiture to the US DOJ did not make that indictment go away. Granted, Oldford group is now under the control of Scheinberg’s son but he still serves in an advisory capacity – which was allowed under the settlement.
This author’s opinion is that we will not see PokerStars get even interim licensing let alone a permanent casino license in Atlantic City. So that leaves the question of just who the first big player will be. This money is on Caesar’s who have never served US players real money games online, who own 1/3 of the AC casinos already, and were the first US land based company to enter the online market in 2010 with their Gamesys casino.