ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The world's largest Internet poker company has set up shop in New Jersey, marking its return to the United States in what the industry hopes will give a boost to the nation's largest online gambling market.
PokerStars began full operations in New Jersey on Monday, after the state Division of Gaming Enforcement determined their five-day testing period had gone well.
The launch marked the re-emergence of the Internet poker giant, which stopped doing business in the United States in 2011 in a crackdown on then-illegal Internet gambling that came to be known in the poker community as "Black Friday." For now, only PokerStars customers physically located within New Jersey's borders will be able to use its platform to gamble online in the United States.
New Jersey has the largest market of the three U.S. states that currently offer Internet gambling, along with Nevada and Delaware. But some analysts and players say the market needs to expand to other jurisdictions in order to thrive.
New Jersey has been seeking reciprocal compacts with other states and even other countries to offer Internet gambling with larger combined prize pools, but so far it has only succeeded in taking small steps toward that goal.
New Jersey's Internet gambling market showed a 21 percent increase in 2015, rising in its second full year to nearly $149 million.
"What is going on right now is going to make a big difference," said Jennifer Shahade, a PokerStars-affiliated professional player. "I think New Jersey is going to get pretty big. A lot of people will be taking advantage of that."
PokerStars is partnered with Resorts Casino Hotel. The site, pokerstarsnj.com, is New Jersey's 18th Internet gambling site. 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 is really proud to be in New Jersey and finally be online," said company spokesman Eric Hollreiser. "We're finally here and open for business, and we couldn't be happier."
PokerStars tried twice in 2013 to get licensed in New Jersey. But the state suspended the company for up to two years, citing legal problems involving some company executives, including an unresolved indictment against its founder.
Some executives stepped down as part of the sale to Amaya Inc. over their involvement in PokerStars' acceptance of bets in the United States after the government made it illegal to take payments in connection with illegal gambling through the Internet.
The PokerStars website paid a $547 million fine to the Department of Justice but didn't admit wrongdoing.
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