PokerStars’ parent company files papers to acquire Atlantic Club in Atlantic City

pokerstars-atlantic-club-new-jerseyThe Rational Group, the Isle of Man-based parent company of online poker behemoths PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, has reached a deal to purchase the Atlantic Club casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. On Tuesday, the Press of Atlantic City reported that Rational Group offshoot Rational US Holdings had filed papers with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) seeking approval of the purchase of the struggling casino from owners Resorts International Holdings. PokerStars’ interest in purchasing the property first surfaced in early December, leaving the online gambling world in a tizzy at the audacious ploy by Stars to reenter the US market after reaching a $731m settlement with the US Department of Justice in August.

Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but Rational’s filing indicated it is “a willing and enthusiastic prospective purchaser, and it intends to improve the financial viability of the property, and, therefore, the offerings available in Atlantic City.” The Atlantic Club’s COO Michael Frawley stated that the acquisition would “secure up to 2,000 jobs and maintain the economic benefits the casino brings to New Jersey.” DGE officials confirmed that it had received an application requesting interim casino authorization and other relief from the Rational Group. The DGE has 90 days in which to make up its mind, after which the New Jersey Casino Control Commission would have an additional 30 days in which to hold a hearing and give thumbs up or down.

As always, Stars’ timing is impeccable. New Jersey is currently waiting to learn whether Gov. Chris Christie will sign the online gambling bill the state legislature passed in late December. That legislation underwent a late rewrite to remove a so-called ‘bad actor’ provision that would have precluded companies like Stars that took money from US citizens post Dec. 31, 2006 from getting a New Jersey online gaming license. The Press of Atlantic City says Christie has until Monday, Feb. 4 to decide whether to enact the bill into law or repeat his veto of similar legislation in 2011. (Earlier reports had that date as Feb. 3, but GamblingCompliance‘s Jennifer Webb has suggested the deadline is Feb. 7.) Meanwhile, Atlantic City just revealed its sixth straight year of revenue decline and State Sen. Ray Lesniakwho welcomes the Stars/Atlantic Club tie-up – has warned that at least one AC casino could close unless Christie okays the online gambling plan. (Lesniak, meanwhile, has announced his health scare of last year won’t deter him from seeking reelection.) Should Christie veto the deal, he could effectively be vetoing the Atlantic Club’s acquisition. That’ll do, Scheinberg. That’ll do…