Friday, February 26, 2016

Spring in the Garden State for PokerStars

At long last, PokerStars is returning to the United States. Or at least to part of the United States. One of the states. It’s a start.

We first started hearing about New Jersey as a possible initial post-Black Friday reentry point into the U.S. for the world’s largest poker site way, way back in late 2012, even before New Jersey finally had an online gambling bill get signed into law in late February 2013.

You might remember how Governor Chris Christie kind of surprised us with his non-veto of the bill back then, deciding at last to change his tune on the issue. (Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise to see Christie abruptly changing his mind regarding another subject earlier today.)

It was a couple of months before that PokerStars had been talking to the Atlantic Club in Atlantic City, negotiating to buy the failing casino as a prelude to getting an NJ license to offer online games. That deal fell through, and the Atlantic Club stopped just failing and failed altogether in January 2014.

In mid-2013 PokerStars partnered up with the Resorts Casino Hotel, and after New Jersey held up their application for a license later that year the Amaya purchase in July 2014 helped change things in a positive way for Stars’ prospects in the Garden State. After many months of back-and-forthing including tentative launch dates being frequently bandied about, the NJ license finally got preliminary approval last September.

Then yesterday came the news of a concrete date for PokerStars NJ to go online -- March 21, 2016, the first day of spring. PokerNews summarizes the announcement, while the Online Poker Report offers a comprehensive discussion of what happens next, including some speculative thoughts about both the near-term and long-term.

From the latter, I’m most intrigued by the prospect of a PokerStars-branded live poker room being constructed at the Resorts (the plan for which was announced some time back), as well as the possibility of live PS-sponsored festivals happening there down the road. In the meantime it’ll be interesting to see how the NJ-only site fares, knowing of course that in relative terms it’ll be super-small change like every other U.S. regulated site has necessarily been.

Image: PokerStarsNJ.

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