The US casino industry’s premier national trade group has added six new companies as Board-level members. Including an online gaming giant that was once a bitter rival.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) announced this week announced the following six companies are all joining its Board of Directors:
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- BMM Testlabs
- Choctaw Casinos and Resorts
- Golden Entertainment
- GVC Holdings PLC
- Paddy Power Betfair
- The Stars Group
The Stars Group is the owner of PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker site. According to the AGA, The Stars Group is a leading provider of technology-based products and services in the global gaming and interactive entertainment industries. It also owns the PokerStars Casino, BetStars, and Full Tilt brands through its Stars Interactive Group gaming division.
The Canadian-based company is formerly known as Amaya Inc., Amaya Gaming Group Inc., and Rational Group.
The Stars Group’s addition to the AGA Board of Directors is notable because the AGA once tried to block its entry into the Atlantic City casino market. In fact, the AGA did so arguing that PokerStars operated as a criminal enterprise when it remained open to US players following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
PokerStars and The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel
PokerStars entered into an agreement to purchase The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel for $15 million in December 2012. It is suspected the move was an effort to get a foot in the door of the about-to-open New Jersey online gambling industry.
Legislation passed by the New Jersey Assembly and Senate during the same month included regulations that would require online gambling site operators to have a connection to a brick and mortar Atlantic City casino. In February 2013, a revised bill including these regulations passed and was signed into law by then-Governor Chris Christie.
In the interim, PokerStars made an application for an Interim Casino Authorization with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. The AGA tried to block the issuance of the license filing a brief with the Division of Gaming Enforcement and Casino Control Commission.
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The integrity of the gaming industry
The brief claimed issuing PokerStars a casino license of any kind would compromise the integrity of the gaming industry. It claimed PokerStars is a business built on deceit, chicanery and “the systematic flouting of U.S. law.”
The brief also stated PokerStars operated as a criminal enterprise:
“Any action allowing PokerStars to be licensed 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. That message would dramatically undermine public confidence in gaming regulation and could cripple the industry’s public image.”
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PokerStars and a number of state lawmakers claimed AGA member Caesars Entertainment was behind the brief in an effort to protect its interests in the Atlantic City casino and New Jersey online gambling markets.
A decision on the license was expected by the end of April 2013, but it was delayed. In the interim, Atlantic Club Casino Hotel sent PokerStars a termination letter, claiming PokerStars had missed a deadline to purchase the property.
PokerStars filed a lawsuit. However, in May 2013 a Superior Court judge ruled PokerStars’ deal to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel was dead.
The hotel and casino closed in January 2014 and remains shuttered. Caesars Entertainment eventually bought it. However, Caesars sold the property to current owners TJM Properties in May 2014 for $13.5 million.
PokerStars launches in NJ
PokerStars launched the PokerStars NJ poker and casino site in May 2016. It operates under the Resorts Casino Hotel‘s internet gaming license.
Two other new AGA board members, GVC Holdings PLC and Paddy Power Betfair, also operate New Jersey online gambling sites.
AGA president and CEO Geoff Freeman said the addition of all six new board members speaks to the organization’s diversity:
“More than ever before, AGA’s diverse membership reflects the broad interests of the casino gaming industry. Adding these six industry leaders will help our ability to serve as an effective advocate for the industry as a whole, and we’re excited to add their expertise to our Board.”