PokerStars NJ Launch Target Set For 3Q15 By Amaya CEO

Baazov: PokerStars New Jersey Online Poker Launch Coming Third Quarter Of 2015

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UPDATE 5/14: Baazov reiterated the 3Q timeline in the company’s May earnings call.

PokerStarslong wait in New Jersey may be drawing to an end.

That’s per comments from Amaya CEO David Baazov. In response to a question regarding New Jersey on a March 31 earnings call, Baazov replied:

“As it relates to New Jersey I would say that we feel that this is coming […] we would expect to receive and launch in the next quarter.”

OPR has confirmed with Amaya that Baazov was referring to the third quarter of 2015 when he said “the next quarter.”

Read a full transcript of the call and select highlights here.

What makes this prediction any different?

Those following the U.S. regulated online poker industry closely can be forgiven for feeling like they’ve heard this all before.

Since Amaya’s acquisition of PokerStars wrapped up in August 2014, several launch dates – via politicians, pundits and sources close to the companies involved – have been predicted and passed.

But I’d note that:

  1. Amaya itself has generally not placed any specific timelines on a NJ entry since taking ownership.
  2. More importantly, Amaya has offered virtually no guidance on the matter since licensing delays first became apparent in October 2014.

Contrast the quote from today’s call:

As it relates to New Jersey I would say that we feel that this is coming […] we would expect to receive and launch in the next quarter.

… with Baazov’s only comment on New Jersey during the company’s last earnings call in November:

Regarding New Jersey, which has already regulated online gaming, we are in the process of seeking our transactional waiver for our B2C business in that state. That process is ongoing. We cannot comment on that until its conclusion.

That makes Baazov’s willingness to assign a firm target date to New Jersey launch a meaningful development.

Background of PokerStars’ attempts to enter NJ

Should Baazov’s target date prove accurate, it would mark the end of a saga spanning nearly three full years:

Read more about the background of PokerStars in NJ here.

What impact will PokerStars have on NJ online poker?

The New Jersey online poker market has struggled to find its footing. Revenue for 1Q15 has compared poorly to the same periods last year.

There’s little doubt that the entry of PokerStars and Full Tilt will provide a boost to the market. But the structural issues present in the market – most notably payment processing and a population that is likely capable of supporting only a single, healthy online network – will remain.

And even a significant boost relative to the market’s current performance (think 50%) would still serve to put the NJ online poker market back around the point where it peaked in early 2014.

Company also entering daily fantasy sports market

The New Jersey announcement was one of several big pieces of news from today’s call. Amaya also announced that PokerStars has taken their first sports bet and outlined definitive plans to enter the daily fantasy sports market.

Amaya’s approach to DFS as outlined appears to be a mix of buy and build, with a tight timeline for launch. Baazov stated that “the goal is to be up before the NFL season starts.”

Full transcript of Amaya 4Q14 call.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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