So What Exactly Is Going On With The PokerStars Poker Room At Resorts?

Following a failed attempt to purchase the now-shuttered Atlantic Club, PokerStars moved on to plan b in its attempts to get a foot in the door in the New Jersey online gambling market.

The company’s contingency plan came to light in July of 2013, with the announcement that PokerStars would be partnering with Atlantic City’s oldest casino, Resorts.

Not long after the partnership was revealed, reports began circulating that PokerStars and Resorts would not only be consummating their relationship online, but also live at Resorts, with the construction of a $10 million brick and mortar poker room.

In October of 2013, Bill Pascrell III, speaking on behalf of PokerStars, told the Press of Atlantic City that construction on the poker room would begin when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement approved PokerStars’ license application.

“As soon as the license is in hand, they’re ready to start building,” Pascrell stated. “It will be the PokerStars poker room at Resorts.”

Unbeknownst to PokerStars and Resorts at the time, PokerStars’ license application would turn into a two-year headache.

By the time PokerStars was approved for a transactional waiver by the DGE, on September 30, 2015, things had changed dramatically within PokerStars and in New Jersey, which put the poker room in jeopardy.

  • PokerStars was under new ownership.
  • Market expectations had been slashed, particularly on the online poker front.
  • Several casinos had closed their doors (Atlantic Club, Revel, Trump Plaza, and Showboat), as did one of the state’s original online gaming sites launched in November of 2013, Ultimate Gaming.

Originally announced in October of 2013, the $10 million poker room that was supposed to follow in the footsteps of the company’s licensure has seemingly become an afterthought. Or has it?

A sign the poker room is still on the table

Resorts recently procured a $20 million mortgage from Cleveland-based KeyBank.

Interestingly, only about half of the money has been officially spoken for. $11 million of the $20 million loan will be used to renovate 144 of the rooms in Resorts’ Ocean Tower by Memorial Day, and all 400 by the end of 2017, according to Resorts CEO Mark Giannantonio, who spoke to the Press of Atlantic City.

Minus the cost of the hotel renovations, Resorts is left with roughly $9 million of working capital.

Oddly, Resorts hasn’t explained what the additional $9 million loan against its mortgage would be used for. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the original cost of the poker room was rumored to be around $10 million.

Are recent live events trial runs?

Resorts is going all-in when it comes to online gambling.

The casino opened an iGaming Lounge and has ascended to the number two spot in the market despite its late entry.

In addition to Resorts’ emphasis on NJ online casino gaming, PokerStars is just as focused on the market, and has already launched several marketing campaigns and live events in the two months it has been in operation.

PokerStars’ live events at Resorts Casino could very well be a test to see what kind of demand there is for a PokerStars-branded land-based poker room in Atlantic City.

These events could be setting the stage for larger scale events, including major tournament series.

Is there too much competition in AC?

One concern that could spoil PokerStars’ and Resorts’ plans to open a brick and mortar poker room is the sheer number of poker rooms already operating in the Atlantic City market.

Right now there are six poker rooms boasting a total of 224 tables:

  • Borgata poker room (85 tables)
  • WSOP poker room at Bally’s (42 tables)
  • Harrah’s poker room (40 tables)
  • Trump Taj Mahal recently reopened its poker room (25 tables)
  • Tropicana poker room (22 tables)
  • Golden Nugget poker room (10 tables)

Borgata will be hard to dethrone, and the two Caesars rooms, along with the recently-remodeled Trump Taj Mahal poker room, will certainly hang on to a considerable amount of market share.

If PokerStars and Resorts do open a brick and mortar poker room, they’ll need to put the appropriate time and energy into it.

Image credit: f11photo / Shutterstock.com

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Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.