Disputing that the petitioners for a PokerStars interim casino license in Atlantic City, New Jersey, both individual and corporate, are qualified under the Interim Casino Authorization (ICA) via N.J.S.A. 5:2-95.12 of the Casino Control Act, the American Gaming Association, (AGA) filed a petition on Monday asking the Division of Gaming Enforcement to deny the application for the license.
The petition was filed late in the day Monday with the DGE, signed by attorneys for the AGA, is an effort by its membership, to convince regulators in New Jersey that PokerStars is “not suitable” for licensing. The petition asserts that licensing of PokerStars in N.J. would “gravely compromise the integrity of the gaming industry” and that PokerStars business is one built on “deceit, chicanery and the systematic flouting of U.S. law”.
The petition further asserts that licensing of the applicant would “send a damaging message to the world of gaming, and to the world beyond gaming that companies that engage in chronic lawbreaking are welcome in the licensed gaming business”. According to the AGA’s position in their petition, such a message ” would dramatically undermine public confidence in gaming regulation and could cripple the industry’s public image for many years”.
After facing an in rem forfeiture complaint filed by the U.S. Attorneys Office, Southern District of New York in April 2011, in July 2012, PokerStars settled the matter with the U.S. government, agreeing to pay $ 731 million, which includes the acquisition of assets of Full Tilt Poker, another of the three companies targeted in the complaint. $ 184 million of that settlement also was earmarked to be repaid to non U.S. customers of Full Tilt Poker, who was unable to make good on the account balances due to those customers. As agreed in the settlement, PokerStars made those funds available to former FTP “rest of world” customers” within 90 days of the settlement, without restriction. U.S. customers of Full Tilt Poker are still awaiting repayment of their funds, which is to be accomplished via the remission process through the U.S. Department of Justice. The remission for Full Tilt Poker customers will be funded, at least in part, by the settlement payment from PokerStars, the first installment of which was paid in 2012 and was more than enough to cover the remission costs. U.S. customers of PokerStars were reimbursed their full account balances, believed to be in excess of $ 100 million, almost immediately following permission from the U.S. D.O.J to do so, in May 2011.
Most importantly, as part of the settlement, PokerStars admitted no wrongdoing, culpability, liability or guilt whatsoever, and was explicitly granted permission to apply for licensing in the U.S. for online gaming, at such time that it is permissible under relevant law. The law in New Jersey provides that licensing of online operators will be possible through owners of brick and mortar casinos in Atlantic City. Servers for such online gaming must be located within those B&M casinos. PokerStars is in the process of acquiring the Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City, which would provide them a vehicle for online gaming, while at the same time, saving more than 2000 jobs at risk at the casino which has been struggling for the past year. Governor Chris Christie signed the new internet gaming statute into law last week after legislators in the state accepted his recommendations for stringent control by the Division of Gaming Enforcement.
The U.S.Attorneys Office, SDNY, upon receipt of the first payment from PokerStars post settlement, dismissed the in rem forfeiture charges and the money laundering charges against the PokerStars companies with prejudice.
The unprecedented petition put forth by the AGA specifically asks the DGE to not consider the settlement with the U.S. DOJ, and hence the terms above, when considering their obligation in review of the application for PokerStars licensing.
Additional details on the filing, including the AGA’s selective reasoning, will follow in a separate article later today.