After 4 False Alarms, should we believe PokerStars will enter NJ in Fall 2015?

It’s almost beginning to feel like every time the season changes, there’s a new declaration that PokerStars will be entering the New Jersey online gaming market. By my calculations, there have been four solid attempts by Stars to gain a New Jersey license since late 2012 – with each one failing up to this point.

Now, we have Amaya CEO David Baazov telling investors that his company’s massive poker site will enter the Garden State by the fall of 2015. So is there any reason to think that this time will be any different? Let’s attempt to answer this question by rehashing PokerStars’ previous attempts, and if they lead to the conclusion that Stars will indeed be serving New Jersey residents later this year.

Four attempts to gain licensing, but to no avail

In 2012, PokerStars tried to buy the failing Atlantic Club casino resort for $15 million. The obvious angle here was that by owning a land-based casino, they would have satisfied one of the major requirements to gaining licensing. However, Atlantic Club’s parent company, Colony Club, terminated the deal based on a loophole that Stars needed to gain licensing by a certain date.

The world’s largest poker site partnered with Resorts casino in July 2013, which completed a big requirement towards getting an iGaming license. However, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement suspended review of their license application just six months later.

Amaya Gaming bought Stars from the Rational Group in June 2014, thus clearing the way for a non-tainted company to get the poker site into New Jersey. But this didn’t seem to make any difference in the previous application-review decision.

In October 2014, Amaya filed for a transactional waiver, only to have their launch delayed the same month. By February 2015, State Senator Ray Lesniak tweeted that Governor Chris Christie was holding the application up as a favor to billionaire casino magnate and anti-iGaming nut Sheldon Adelson.

So is there any reason to believe Baazov?

Based on what we just discussed above, it doesn’t seem like there would be any reason to think that Stars will finally be in New Jersey. However, there may be some logic to believe that Baazov’s prediction is believable.

The main reason why is because of how reserved Amaya has been about the matter since purchasing Stars. Most of the previous predictions have come from Lesniak, who, while knowing a great deal about NJ politics, isn’t actually a part of PokerStars. But now that Baazov is giving a specific time line, there’s even more reason to believe. Here’s the latest quote from Amaya’s head man on the subject: “As it relates to New Jersey I would say that we feel that this is coming […] we would expect to receive and launch in the next quarter.”

New Jersey isn’t Amaya’s only target

Even if PokerStars is kept out of New Jersey yet again, it’s not going to stop their momentum. After all, Amaya is currently pursuing California and Pennsylvania through lobbying efforts. And as Baazov told investors, the company also sees major growth potential in Asia and South America too. Baazov said that his overall goal is to double Stars’ business within the next five years. It’s no doubt a lofty goal, but if anybody is going to do it, then PokerStars is definitely the site to do so.

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