On Thursday, Amaya announced the long awaited return of PokerStars and Full Tilt to US shores, nearly five years after both sites’ forcible expulsion from the market following the April 15, 2011 Black Friday online poker indictments.
Amaya said it expects to conduct an interim testing period with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) and a beta period with a limited player base will commence in “mid-March.”
Both brands will operate via the Pokerstarsnj.com domain – Amaya began migrating Tilt players to the Stars platform earlier this month – and will be available via desktop, tablet and mobile devices. In addition to its flagship poker product, the site will also offer a full slate of casino options, including slots, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and video poker.
Amaya is piggybacking on the gaming license of Atlantic City’s Resorts Casino Hotel, whose owner Morris Bailey said he expects the Stars launch will “further spur the positive momentum we have already made” in New Jersey’s regulated market. Resorts Digital Gaming made its online launch in March 2015 and its casino-only site earned $1.43m in January.
Amaya applied for a New Jersey license for Stars and Tilt shortly after Amaya acquired the brands from the Rational Group in 2014. The DGE approved Amaya’s application last September but not before ordering Amaya to sever ties with four Rational execs whose previous dealings in the US market were apparently found wanting for one reason or another.
It remains to be seen how much the Amaya brands can grow New Jersey’s online poker market, or whether it will simply take market share from other operators. The Jersey market has been setting new revenue records in recent months, but the gains have all been on the casino side, while poker continues to struggle, and unless Amaya can convince poker players to move to New Jersey, that liquidity pool ain’t getting any deeper.