Despite recent issues Amaya has been granted an extension on its New Jersey iGaming license by the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).
On September 15, 2015, Amaya was finally granted a transactional waiver by New Jersey’s DGE which meant the company was free to start testing and, eventually, launch PokerStars in the Garden State.
Although Amaya was subject to a 14-month review, largely due to PokerStars’ previous activity in the US post-UIGEA, the state’s regulators were happy to grant the new owners (Amaya purchased PokerStars from the Oldford Group for $4.9 billion in 2014) a license.
Since that time Amaya launched PokerStars New Jersey on March 21 under a wave of anticipation and quickly shot to the top of the poker charts.
Reviewing the state of play after its first week of operation, Pokerscout.com reported a 24-hour traffic peak of 441 players which put the site comfortably ahead of its closest rival, 888poker New Jersey (314 players).
That piece of positive news was followed by the DGE’s decision to extend Amaya’s iGaming license for a further six months.
While the renewal of its iGaming license may have never been in doubt immediately following PokerStars’ New Jersey launch, recent events involving David Baazov could have put the deal in jeopardy.
Following the announcement by the Quebec Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) on March 23 that David Baazov was among a select number of Amaya employees under investigation for insider trading, the status of PokerStars in the US was put under a cloud of uncertainty.
Although Amaya as a corporate entity wasn’t directly accused of insider trading, the fact its CEO was under investigation certainly didn’t make for positive headlines at the close of March.
Soon after the news broke Baazov moved to deny all the allegations and subsequently went on to take a voluntary leave of absence. Rafi Ashkenazi stepped in to become interim CEO while Baazov deals with the AMF and it now appears to be business as usual at Amaya.
While it might be a stretch to suggest that the DGE insisted on Baazov’s voluntary leave of absence before issuing a license extension, it’s a likely bet that his presence at the head of the company would have only served as a distraction to PokerStars’ future plans in the US.
Baazov’s personal situation aside, PokerStars New Jersey is now preparing for at least another six months of growth within the Garden State.
In fact, as well as exploring the possibility of launching a selection of online casino games, the online poker site recently partnered with New Jersey’s Autism Speaks chapter.
Acting as a “premier sponsor,” PokerStars will support ongoing research and help raise awareness of the charities work across New Jersey and the US as a whole.