ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – New Jersey casino regulators dealt a losing hand Wednesday to the world's largest online poker website, barring PokerStars from conducting Internet gambling in the state for two years.
The state Division of Gaming Enforcement suspended the company's application, citing an unresolved federal indictment against company founder Isai Scheinberg.
"The Division's determination is based primarily on the unresolved federal indictment against Isai Scheinberg for the alleged violation of federal gambling statutes, namely, the Illegal Gambling Business Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), and the involvement of certain PokerStars executives with Internet gaming operations in the United States following the enactment of UIGE," the division said in a statement Wednesday.
The state said PokerStars can reapply sooner than two years if its circumstances change materially, but the state didn't recommend specific changes.
A PokerStars spokesman could not predict whether the company plans to make the type of changes envisioned by New Jersey regulators.
"We are disappointed that the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has suspended the review of our application at this time," spokesman Eric Hollreiser said. "We note that the DGE will resume the review of our application if our circumstances change. We will remain in open dialogue with the DGE and will update them on changes in our situation as they occur."
Resorts Casino Hotel, which had partnered with PokerStars in anticipation of offering Internet gambling, won't say if it is seeking another online partner.
"We are disappointed that PokerStars was not issued a license," Resorts president Mark Giannantonio said. "We are hopeful that they can resolve their issues with the DGE in an expeditious fashion."
The gambling enforcement division issued an Internet gambling permit to Resorts on Wednesday, but the casino has no obvious online partner to offer it, at least right away.
Six Atlantic City casinos — the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the Tropicana Casino and Resort; Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino; the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort; Caesars Atlantic City and Bally's Atlantic City — are offering online gambling. The Golden Nugget Atlantic City has an Internet gambling permit but has not yet begun offering games as it works out problems with its systems.
PokerStars also had trouble in its attempt to purchase The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel last year. Part of the reason the $15 million proposed sale fell through is that PokerStars did not get approval from New Jersey regulators within the timeframe both sides anticipated.
The company, owned by The Rational Group, based in Isle of Man in the U.K., still has many fans in the online poker community.
"In truth I'd like PokerStars to come back; I so would," said Kevin Campbell of Bayonne, who says he has been unable to log on to any of the gambling websites New Jersey offers, and feels their guaranteed prize pools are too low.
PokerStars, he said, "had a $5 million guarantee Sunday; 16,000 people played. None in America though. Home of the free, huh? They block out the biggest and best poker company in the world."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC