The PokerStars New Jersey dramatic entrance has been heralded and then delayed numerous time throughout the past year.
Blame for the delay has been placed on a variety of people, including Governor Chris Christie. But this week, the director of the Garden State’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) revealed the true culprit for the holdup, saying it is due to PokerStars’ parent company Amaya and its purchase of the Rational Group.
“Amaya is an applicant here and we’re engaged in a very thorough, comprehensive, detailed review, not of Amaya but the Amaya purchase of PokerStars and Full Tilt, the Rational Group,” David Rebuck, DGE director, told Global Gaming Business publisher Roger Gros.
“We’ve done 80 sworn interviews, traveled to a half a dozen foreign countries,” he continued. “We’re going to do this in a very professional way, because whatever decision we come down on will be scrutinized and some will hate it, some will love it, but it will be done in a way this this division can have pride saying ‘this is accurate.'”
Back in June of 2014, Canadian-based Amaya, a then-small interactive gaming company, acquired the Rational Group, parent corporation to PokerStars and Full Tilt, for an all-cash transaction totaling $4.9 billion. The deal instantly made Amaya the largest publicly traded iGaming company in the world.
The business dealing raised concerns by financial investigators into whether anyone tied or employed by Amaya illegally profited from insider trading leading up to the monumental contract.
Quebec regulators raided Amaya’s Montreal headquarters last December with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in tow. The United States also got in on the scrutiny through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), an independent organization authorized by Congress to police, enforce, and arbitrate operations of brokerage firms and stock market exchanges.
The two probes haven’t produced any concrete evidence that any illegal activity took place.
To further support its claim of innocence, Amaya was granted acceptance onto the Nasdaq stock exchange in June. Nasdaq’s listing process includes an in-depth review of business applicants.
Rebuck’s explanation for the PokerStars licensing delay isn’t being well-received by players in New Jersey, nor certain iGaming proponents in Trenton.
State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-District 20), one of the authors of S490, the bill that legalized Internet gambling in the Garden State, has pointed to Christie for the DGE dragging its feet. “My understanding is that it was ready to be started in October (2014) before Christie interfered,” Lesniak said last February.
Critics of the governor say he’s preventing PokerStars acceptance so that he can gain favor with billionaire GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson, as Christie continues his campaign for the 2016 White House.
Readers online are calling into question why over 80 interviews were conducted, which strikes some pundits as excessive. They were also still suspicious of political motives.
“As long as Christie wants Adelson’s money, he’ll keep PokerStars out of New Jersey,” a commenter using the moniker “fcbasel” posted on Pokerfuse.