It’s far from a done deal, but NJ state regulators are reportedly involved in the discussions. This news, combined with reports that New Jersey is likely to consider online gambling legislation before the end of 2012, suggests the potential for a rapid reshuffling of the American regulated online poker landscape.
There’s no shortage of takeaways from this news; here are three things that jumped out at me after reading the initial reports.
It was tempting to think that after Black Friday, PokerStars might be content to simply dominate the other 75% of the global online poker market. The U.S. market would be too uncertain, potentially hyper-fragmented and crowded with powerful competitors who would exploit PokerStars’ past activity in America to shut out the poker giant at every opportunity.
PokerStars surveyed that landscape and said “let’s buy a struggling New Jersey casino.” That sounds like a company not just merely interested, but potentially hellbent, on returning to America.
Nevada has a pretty solid (albeit early) lead in the American online poker race. They’re about to issue their 12th online poker operator license, which is roughly 12 more than any other state in the U.S.. The Reid/Kyl bill, while considered a long shot by many, would essentially crown Nevada the king of regulated online poker in America.
Stars buying a NJ casino throws a wrench into those works. As I put it on Twitter:
NJ + passed poker bill + PokerStars = Credible challenger to Nevada's planned online poker dominance. #ReidKyl then even more urgent for NV
— Chris Grove (@OPReport) December 7, 2012
And vice versa.
This isn’t PokerStars’ first foray into the world of land-based gambling. It was only a few weeks ago that the company announced the purchase of a stake in London’s Hippodrome Casino.
In 2013, I expect a rash of partnerships, purchases and mergers between the heavyweights of the online poker industry and their land-based counterparts as each begins to fully appreciate the value of the other.
This isn’t a shocking conclusion – after all, Caesar’s has had a relationship with 888 for years – but what will be surprising is the sheer amount and scope of the deals that will come together.
There’s a ways to go before you’ll be able to belly up to the buffet at the PokerStars Casino. But with just the whiff of a scheme to officially set up shop in the United States, PokerStars is already doing what it does best – disrupting the plans of its competitors.