GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 35 - June 2016

PokerStars and the New Jersey online poker market Online poker revenues in New Jersey have been declining since spring 2014. Will the world’s most powerful online poker operator bring players back to the table? by Christopher L. Soriano A lthough New Jersey’s foray into Internet gaming has not yet met the rosiest revenue predictions made before implementation, New Jersey has demonstrated that a U.S. state can implement a robust iGaming platform while ensuring that age, location and player protections are carefully main- tained. Indeed, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has emerged as an authority in the field of regulating iGaming in the U.S., and other states ex- ploring iGaming implementation have looked to follow New Jersey’s lead. In March 2016, PokerStars, which was able to shed its “bad actor” status fol- lowing its purchase by Amaya, entered New Jersey’s online poker market. After only a short period of operation, the on- line poker giant has already shown that its mere presence can stimulate growth in New Jersey’s Internet poker market. How much growth, and whether that growth will lead to opportunities beyond New Jersey, remains to be seen. By way of background: Individuals affili- ated with PokerStars were implicated in the “Black Friday” indictments of 2011, where it was alleged that PokerStars was accepting wagers from U.S. residents post-UIGEA, and more importantly from a legal standpoint, disguising the true na- ture of their financial transactions, which resulted in charges of money laundering and bank fraud. At the time, PokerStars was one of the largest online poker op- erators in the world. When New Jersey regulated Internet gaming, there was much curiosity about whether — and if so, how— PokerStars would seek to enter the market. These questions were answered in June 2014, when Amaya announced it would purchase PokerStars’ assets. At the time, Amaya was already operating in New Jersey’s iGaming market. As expected, the DGE took a close look at the acquisition to determine whether PokerStars would be PokerStars and the New Jersey online poker market