ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The world's largest Internet poker company plans to return to the United States online gambling market next month.
PokerStars will begin operations in New Jersey on March 21.
It will mark the much anticipated re-emergence of the Internet poker giant, which stopped doing business in the United States in 2011. For now, only PokerStars customers physically located within New Jersey's borders will be able to use its platform to gamble online in the U.S.
PokerStars' parent company, Amaya Inc., owns online gambling brands that have over 100 million registered customers worldwide. It was approved by New Jersey gambling regulators in September to enter the state's Internet gambling market.
The site will be the state's 18th Internet gambling site. It will undergo testing by state regulators before its debut. It will offer not only poker, but online table games and slot machine games as well.
"PokerStars is the global leader in online poker and trusted by its customers for its robust and innovative technology, world-class security and game integrity," said David Baazov, Amaya's chairman and CEO. "We are honored and excited to now bring these experiences to New Jersey."
The announcement capped a long and arduous road to approval for PokerStars, which had been banned in New Jersey because of legal problems concerning former corporate officials before Amaya took over.
PokerStars tried twice in 2013 to get licensed in New Jersey. But the state's Division of Gaming Enforcement suspended the company for up to two years, citing legal problems involving some company executives, including an unresolved indictment against its founder. Executives involved in PokerStars' acceptance of bets in the United States after the U.S. government made it illegal to take payments in connection with illegal gambling through the Internet stepped down as part of the sale to Amaya.
The PokerStars website paid a $547 million fine to the Department of Justice but didn't admit wrongdoing.
Amaya is currently fighting off a demand by a Kentucky judge that it pay $870 million for PokerStars taking bets from 2006 to 2011 in a state where casino gambling is illegal. The company filed an appeal this week of Kentucky's December ruling.
New Jersey requires that Internet gambling companies partner with an existing brick-and-mortar casino in Atlantic City in order to offer online gambling. PokerStars tried to buy the Atlantic Club Casino, but that deal fell apart and the casino shut down in January 2014.
PokerStars then partnered with Resorts Casino Hotel. Resorts launched online gambling last year with Sportech NYX Gaming LLC. Amaya bought PokerStars and Full Tilt in August 2014.
The entrance of PokerStars is expected to give a jolt to New Jersey's Internet gambling market, which took in $149 million last year in its second full year of operation. That represented an increase of more than 21 percent over the previous year.
But Internet gambling still accounts for less than 6 percent of all gambling revenue taken in by Atlantic City's eight casinos.
Gambling regulators, casino executives and online poker players all agree that what's truly needed to fuel substantial growth in New Jersey's Internet gambling are the larger prize pools that come with a greatly expanded player base.
As of now, state law restricts Internet gambling to customers within New Jersey's borders. It leaves open the possibility of multistate player pools, but only three states currently allow Internet gambling: New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC