The American Gaming Association has filed a petition in New Jersey in an attempt to prevent PokerStars from operating in a state where online poker is now regulated.
The petition by the AGA was filed on Monday with the State of New Jersey Casino Control Commission and Division of Gaming Enforcement. The protest from the AGA stems from PokerStars’ attempted purchase of The Atlantic Club casino in Atlantic City. PokerStars hopes that by acquiring the property, it would be able to offer online poker in New Jersey — the state passed onling gaming legislation into law just last week.
In the petition, the AGA asks the N.J. gaming commission to deny PokerStars the ability to hold a license in the state. From the petition:
“To issue that ICA (Interim Casino Authorization), the Commission must find that three corporate entities and four individuals are “qualified” under the Act despite their lengthy and intimate ties to PokerStars, the multinational online poker giant whose principals and operating entities have been the focus of federal criminal prosecution for bank fraud, money laundering and gambling offenses, and a parallel forfeiture action. Because PokerStars was operated as a criminal enterprise for many years, those applicants should not be found qualified.”
The AGA petition goes on to note that the interest group has never attempted to get involved in a casino licensing matter, saying that it “opposes the PokerStars Petition because the integrity of the gaming industry would be gravely compromised by any regulatory approvals of PokerStars, a business built on deceit, chicanery, and the systematic touting of U.S. law.”
The AGA is generally referencing a civil case stemming from online poker’s “Black Friday” in 2011 — PokerStars settled that case with the United States Department of Justice last year, and admitted no wrongdoing. The petition goes on to talk about PokerStars operating in the United States after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006.
PokerStars responded with a statement as well, in an article at Forbes.com by Nathan Vardi:
“The U.S. Department of Justice has said PokerStars is suitable to apply for a license in the U.S. and saw fit to give us the assets of our largest competitor and entrust us to compensate their customers outside of the U.S.,” PokerStars said in a statement. “We will continue to work with authorities including the N.J. regulators and other interested state regulators to discuss our qualifications and allow them to comment on what they find.”
The petition is what appears to be the first shot in what could be a messy battle over the U.S. online poker market between PokerStars, the largest online poker operator, and American gaming interests, which would like to keep entities like PokerStars out of the mix. Currently, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware have laws regulation online gaming, although no gaming websites are yet operational in any of those jurisdictions.