Friday, June 13, 2014

The Reunited States: Amaya To Bring PokerStars Back?

Found it a little uncanny that on the very day I finally got my Full Tilt Poker money back -- three years and almost two months after Black Friday came along and the games ended both there and at PokerStars for United States players -- news broke that PokerStars (and the new FTP) may actually be coming back to the U.S. sooner than later.

You’ve no doubt heard about this mammoth deal struck between the Canadian-based Amaya Gaming Group and the Oldford Group Limited, parent company of the Rational Group which in turn owns PokerStars and Full Tilt 2.0. After six months’ worth of negotiations between the two entities, Amaya will be purchasing the online sites, the live poker tours and events, and other associated assets belonging to Rational for a hefty $4.9 billion. Seems hefty, anyway, although some are noting the price tag could have been a lot higher.

A few final steps have to be taken before the deal is finalized (e.g., Amaya shareholders have to okay it, some other approvals have to come), but it sounds like everything is in place for all that to happen.

Amaya already has one online poker platform -- Ongame -- and thus will soon have three. And most notably Amaya is also already licensed to as a service provider for online casinos in New Jersey. Amaya is a “B2B” provider while Rational is a “B2C”; thus, as Amaya says in its presser, “the Transaction combines complementary businesses with minimal overlap.”

The Rational Group had to this point failed to get licensed in the state thanks to its relationship with Isai Scheinberg and his being named in the Black Friday indictment and civil complaint. I believe it was late last year that New Jersey said they’d be waiting another two years before considering Rational’s application again. The change up top thus helps Amaya potentially introduce the Stars platform into NJ much sooner.

Chris Grove over at the Online Poker Report does well to explain both the deal and some of the other possible implications, including what it might mean with regard to PokerStars finding its way into other states (including those yet to pass online gambling legislation). Grove even speculates about the potential for Caesars and Stars somehow to get together down the road with Amaya now in charge.

Among the “Key Transaction Highlights” also listed in the Amaya presser, it is mentioned that “Rational Group’s executive management team will be retained and online poker services provided by PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will be unaffected by the Transaction, with players continuing to enjoy uninterrupted access to their gaming experience.”

While Stars, FTP, the tours, and everything else will be left to the Rational Group guys to continue to manage, it sounds like Amaya has visions of adding what it already has to help “expand the nascent Full Tilt Poker casino platform” while also planning to “support Rational Group’s growth initiatives in new gaming verticals, including casino, sportsbook and social gaming, and new geographies.”

Everything remains “wait and see,” especially until the deal is finalized once and for all, but prospects shift immediately, particularly here in the U.S., when it comes to online poker.

And here we are on Friday the 13th, too, which also recalls another landmark day in the twisty history of online poker in the U.S. Uncanny.

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