PokerStars Files Brief to NJ Commission: AGA Lacks Standing to Participate in Casino Authorization Decision

Last week, the American Gaming Association (AGA) filed a brief with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, asserting that PokerStars was not “qualified” to receive an Interim Casino Authorization in Atlantic City.  The lobby group also filed a petition to assert their standing to participate in the hearings where the decision to grant the ICA will be heard.

According to sources, PokerStars has now filed their own brief to ask that the AGA petition to participate be denied for lack of standing.  While the AGA claims that the issue involves not only public interest but additional private interest by basis of their membership.  The PokerStars petition to deny standing to the AGA in the matter asserts that the AGA has not identified any concrete interest in the sale or operation of the Atlantic Club Casino, which is the matter at hand. The petition to deny also states that since the AGA brings no firsthand information before the Commission other than what is available from public sources widely available to anyone with any interest, that they lack the requisite standing. The Casino Control Commission and the Division of Gaming Enforcement are keenly already aware of the same information without requiring the input of the AGA. 

According to Jeff Ifrah, an attorney for PokerStars, “there is no precedent recognizing the right of a trade association comprised of competing casinos to participate in a license application”.

In their brief to deny PokerStars application for licensing, the AGA claims that they represent commercial casino companies and other gaming related businesses. In their brief requesting participation in the matter, the AGA asserts they represent the interest of 62 members, with interests relating to the industry, including casino companies, gaming equipment manufacturers, financial services companies, professional services firms, suppliers and vendors, state gaming associations, publications and labor unions. The AGA asked to be permitted to take part in the hearing to determine whether PokerStars is licensed because their members’ interests in “promoting and insuring the integrity of the commercial casino industry” would be directly affected by the outcome of the proceedings.

But such is the same interest by any member of the public, and is the reason that the Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Casino Control Commission conduct their own, in depth investigations before providing licenses. According to Ifrah, “I have confidence that the Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Casino Control Commission can thoroughly complete their duties without the assistence of the AGA”.

The AGA claimed that the individuals that are named in the PokerStars application for a casino license (none of which have ever been charged with anything) and the corporate entities that applied for the license, are not suitable.  The AGA asks that the settlement between PokerStars and the U.S. Department of Justice, where PokerStars admitted to no wrongdoing, liability or culpability with respect to any charges and the U.S. Attorneys Office, SDNY did not demand they do so, not be considered in New Jersey’s contemplation of licensing PokerStars. In doing so they point, in part, to reported statements by one of the individuals who pled guilty to several charges, Nelson Burtnick. Burtnick, once employed by PokerStars, and later by Full Tilt Poker, surrendered to U.S. authorities in 2012, pleading guilty to felonies and is believed to be a cooperating witness while awaiting sentencing. The petition’s reliance on statements from a “co-conspirator” in the Black Friday charges was not further addressed by the AGA.

The AGA admit they have never before sought to participate in a licensing proceeding.

 

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