Amaya Inc., parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, got the green light last night to go live with online poker and casino games in New Jersey. The news follows a delay of nearly two years since Amaya first applied for a license back in 2013. After a lengthy background investigation, the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) issued its approval for PokerStars and Full Tilt to enter the NJ market.
It has been a long road for Amaya in getting to this point. The company applied for a license soon after New Jersey legalized online poker and casinos but officials delayed the licensing process for a minimum of two years due to PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker continuing to accept US customers after the passage of the UIGEA in 2006.
The DGE did eventually agree to investigate Amaya and consider them for approval. As Steve Ruddock reported last week, the DGE interviewed about 80 people in six different countries before finally granting the approval notice last night. Finally, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars are back in the USA.
Good News for Players
Poker players in the New Jersey area should be pretty happy right about now. Both sites dominated the US market between 2006 and 2011. Stars and Tilt were both forced out of the US poker market on April 15th, 2011 (a day that would later be known as Black Friday) and never came back… until now.
PokerStars was especially beloved by players thanks to its willingness to engage the poker community, provide serious answers to questions and make changes in response to criticism. Even after the 2011 DOJ crackdown, PokerStars was able to pay all players in full. Full Tilt Poker nearly collapsed and left player balances in limbo for years afterwards. PokerStars later swooped in, acquired Full Tilt Poker and began the payments process to former Full Tilt players.
Under Amaya ownership now, PokerStars and Full Tilt should go live in New Jersey soon. Online poker has struggled to gain much traction in NJ, but the PokerStars group has more experience and success in the industry than anyone else currently operating in NJ. The market as a whole will benefit from the return of these online poker giants.
Players in other states can also take this as good news. Amaya’s approval in New Jersey lends legitimacy to the entire organization and will make it easier to gain approval in other regulated states. PokerStars’ efforts in Nevada and California just got a whole lot easier. Authorities in California have mulled over including a bad actor clause to keep PokerStars and Full Tilt out if the state ever legalizes online poker. Now that both are licensed in New Jersey, it lends more legitimacy and serves to further distance PokerStars from its past actions in the US.
This is the second major inroad PokerStars has made into the US market since September. Last month, PokerStars acquired fantasy website Victiv and rebranded it as DraftStars.com to begin hosting real money fantasy sports contests in the US. Amaya seems quite intent on reestablishing itself as a legitimate, legal online gaming provider in the US. So far, so good.