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Found 34 results

  1. In recent days, PokerStarshas been reaching out to former New Jersey VIP players and meeting with them via a series of summits in Jersey City and Atlantic City. The site, which Amaya Gaming purchased along with Full Tilt Poker three months ago, appears on track to enter the New Jersey market by the end of the year and perhaps as soon as next month. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsson Poker, a leading global online gaming provider. Betsson Poker is available on Mobile and offers regular promotions to live events around the world along with great bonuses and competitions. Play nowfor a chance to win the a Dream Holiday with the Grand Poker Adventures throughout 2014! --- The Atlantic City meet-up was on deck for Wednesday from 12:30pm to 2:30pm local time at the Landshark Bar and Grill at Resorts, according to a post on Two Plus Two. The Jersey City meet-up took place on Monday at Hyatt Regency's Vu Lounge. The e-mail sent to players read, "As a valued former PokerStars VIP in New Jersey, we would like to invite you to meet two members of PokerStars' management who will be in the area next week. They will be hosting two discussions in a casual setting with the goal of meeting the New Jersey player base and inviting feedback on any topics or concerns you as a player may have." The e-mail continued, "The meetings will be in an open house format and you can drop by at any time during the scheduled sessions. RSVP is not required. However, if you know in advance that you'll be attending, please let us know at which location we can expect you." One PocketFiver from Atlantic City was contemplating attending the PokerStars meet-up, but would have to miss an event during the ongoing Garden State Super Series on Borgata Pokerand PartyPokerin order to do so. He posted in our New Jersey poker community, "Anyone get another invite from Stars? Would involve taking a GSSS night off, so curious about the exclusivity before I decide/RSVP, but I do love PokerStars, so will probably do it anyway." One person who attended Monday's session told PocketFives that he was "a little disappointed," adding, "It was a marketing questionnaire to find out the status of the New Jersey poker community." One player who attended the meetings this week told PocketFives, "They answered a lot of general questions but were hesitant to lock in to anything in terms of an opening date, as they are still going through the licensing process. But, they did mention that once licensing was approved, it would probably only take a few weeks to be up and running." The same player added, "They wouldn't or couldn't go into much detail on anything relating to opening promotions, rewards, or rakeback as of right now. They had a mock/tentative MTT schedule printed up for eyes only. It was a fuller schedule with guarantees in line with what we currently see being offered, just a wider variety of buy-ins, guarantees, structures, and tournament styles. They seemed very keen on adjusting guarantees accordingly once the player pools and volume was established." The review of PokerStars' application for an operating license in New Jersey was suspended last Decemberafter the site had agreed to partner with Resorts. In June, Amaya Gaming bought PokerStars' parent company for almost $5 billion, possibly paving the way for the world's largest online poker site to enter New Jersey pending approval. As part of Amaya's transaction, Rational founder and CEO Mark Scheinbergand "other principles" agreed to resign. However, "Rational Group's executive management team will be retained and online poker services provided by PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will be unaffected," so it remains to be seen if regulators will be satisfied by the changes made at PokerStars and Full Tilt. We'll keep you posted on the latest poker news right here on PocketFives. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  2. Just three months ago, almost no one would have predicted that the relatively unknown gaming systems supplier Amayawas in advanced talks to purchase the parent company of the online poker behemoth PokerStars. Yet on Friday, the Canadian firm announced the completion of its acquisition of PokerStars and Full Tilt, instantly transforming it into the biggest publicly traded online gambling company on the globe. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsafe, one of the leading suppliers of online gaming products worldwide and a major sponsor of Gumball 3000. Sign up now for great bonuses, €3,000,000 guaranteed monthly, and plenty of live events! --- "We are extremely pleased to have completed this acquisition," said Amaya CEO David Baazov in a press release. "Through PokerStars, Full Tilt, and its multiple live poker tours and events, [Rational Group]brands comprise the world's largest poker business, generating diversified and recurring revenues across the globe from its extremely loyal customer base." Amaya's shareholders voted in favor of the deal earlier this week. The purchase was completed in an all-cash $4.9 billion transaction and includes the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands along with the popular European, Latin American, and Asian Pacific Poker Tour events. The company's poker sites are two of the largest in the world and have dealt over 100 billion poker hands and run over 800 million tournaments, according to the release. "Since launching PokerStars in 2001, we have grown the business each year thanks to constant innovation, unparalleled customer service, and the talent of our dedicated workforce," said PokerStars CEO Mark Scheinberg. "I'm confident that Amaya, together with Rational Group's leadership, will continue to successfully grow the business into the future." The transfer of ownership out of the hands of Mark and his father, Isai Scheinberg (pictured), is considered by many analysts to be the motivating factor behind the sale. On Black Friday, the elder Scheinberg was charged by the US Department of Justice with a bevy of offenses including violating the UIGEA, operating an illegal gambling business, and money laundering. The father and son's continual involvement in the company has already led to issues with PokerStars reentering the potentially lucrative regulated US gambling market. The sale to Amaya could potentially solve both of these problems. For one, the new company leadership would be untainted by Black Friday and, furthermore, the cash raised from the deal could be used for a settlement between Isai and the DOJ. That amount would likely be massive. In 2008, former PartyPoker CEO Anurag Dikshit handed over $300 million to the agency and sold his stake in Party Gaming, while Mark Scheinberg settled for $50 million last year. Insiders have said that one of Mark Scheinberg's final goals for the company was to see PokerStars reenter the US market. So far, though, the site has been blocked at every turn, first after an ill-fated agreement to buy the Atlantic Cluband later when New Jersey regulators suspended their review for two years. But with the transfer to Amaya, that vision might finally be turning into a reality. With the sale complete, many believe it's only a matter of time before New Jersey regulators give PokerStars the green light to open up shop in the state. In California, the company is making inroads as well, but is engaged in a fierce battle against a coalition of tribes who would rather not face the competition that a brand like PokerStars will surely bring. In April, the Rational Group announced a partnership with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three large card clubs in its effort to begin operating in the populous state. As part of its lobbying strategy, PokerStars has continually highlights the fact that it holds more online poker licenses than any other i-gaming company on the planet. And according to the release, "works closely with regulators around the world to help establish sensible global regulation." Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest on the PokerStars sale. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  3. One of the biggest headlines in the history of online poker came down on Thursday night, when it was announced that Amaya Gaming had purchased the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, the Rational Group, for $4.9 billion. Whether PokerStarsor Full Tilt Poker is able to return to the United States in some capacity remains to be seen, but what we do know is that the largest publicly traded online gambling company in the world has been created. Commenting on the sale late Thursday night was the Poker Players Alliance, whose Executive Director, John Pappas (pictured), said the transaction was "encouraging news" for US players: "This is encouraging news for millions of American players who have anxiously awaited the return of PokerStars to the US. Amaya's acquisition should remove any perceived impediment for this popular brand to once again be available to players in regulated US jurisdictions. This is a positive development for poker enthusiasts and the potential return of the PokerStars brand will grow our game." PokerStars and Full Tilt have 85 million registered users combined, which means Amaya finds itself in a position of great influence within the gaming community. Pappas believes the company will take the bull by its horns: "Amaya Gaming has emerged as a force in the internet gaming marketplace and today's news further cements their leadership position… I am confident that they will continue to offer the same commitment to consumers and level of service players have come to expect." The presence of PokerStars, complete with its retained executive management team, could push more states and/or the Federal Government to enact pro-internet gambling legislation. As Pappas said, "I am also hopeful that today's news will bring the gaming industry together – tribes, commercial casinos, card rooms, lotteries, and others – to push as a united front for state and Federal legislation that licenses and regulates internet poker." He continued, "There is no sense in battling for pieces of the internet gaming pie when competitive urges keep the pie from even getting out of the oven. The players, who are left without a safe and regulated place to play, have grown increasingly frustrated." Californiacould prove to be quite a quandary for Amaya, the new owners of PokerStars and Full Tilt once its shareholders approve the deal. As Online Poker Report relayed, PokerStars might still struggle to gain a foothold in the largest US state by population: "Proposed legislation in California excludes not only operators, but also intellectual property such as brands and software connected to online bets taken from the US market after December 31, 2006." Speaking on PokerStars' prospects in California, Pappas told PocketFives in an exclusive statement, "I believe the 'bad actor' language that targets assets is very problematic and cannot remain in the bill. Never before has a gaming asset been deemed 'tainted' and 'unsuitable' for licensing. It would set a troubling precedent in gaming law. Just think of the early days of Vegas when the Mob owned and ran the casinos." Pappas added, "I also question the constitutionality of a law that punishes a company or its assets when they have never violated state or Federal law and even further have settled all matters with the Department of Justice and admitted no wrongdoing. The language just doesn't make sense and doesn't belong in any bill." We'll continue to bring you updates on this breaking story right here on PocketFives. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  4. According to Bloomberg, the price tag for Amaya Gaming's rumored purchase of PokerStars' parent companycould be more than $1 billion. The news outlet, which released a series of articles on Thursday about the potential acquisition, said, "Blackstone Group LP's credit business, GSO Capital Partners LP, is among the backers of Amaya's bid, arranging more than $1 billion in financing." Trading of Amaya's stock in Toronto was haltedmidday Thursday after it had risen 28% in two days and 17% on Thursday alone. The reason, according to multiple reports, is a forthcoming acquisition of PokerStars' parent company, Rational Group. E-mails from PocketFives requesting comment sent to Amaya and Rational were not returned at press time; Bloomberg could not procure comments from either company. Up in the air is what exactly Amaya would be acquiring. Bloomberg reported that the deal is for PokerStars' parent company, which would theoretically also include Full Tilt Poker, which Rational Group acquired in the middle of 2012 upon its settlement with the US Department of Justice. Other possibilities we've heard include the Full Tilt Poker brand and software as well as the potential for a reverse takeover, as reported by CalvinAyre.com, which originally broke the story. As far as the funding goes, Bloomberg reported, "Blackstone, based in New York, is preparing to announce its largest-ever credit deal, with more than $1 billion of fund commitments… The agreement, which the firm expects will be announced as soon as today, is an acquisition financing for a North American company." The company in question was not revealed, although the general consensus is that the funding is earmarked for Canadian-based Amaya. As of press time, no deal for Amaya to acquire PokerStars had been announced, nor had any formal announcement of the $1 billion in funding from Blackstone. The latter extended up to $160 million in credit to a subsidiary of Amaya late last year. PokerStars has run into trouble acquiring a license in New Jersey and circumventing a "bad actor" clause in California. As one poster on Two Plus Two put it, "Rational realizes that it has little chance of breaking into the US market within the next decade, thus making PokerStars less valuable to Rational than to someone who has a better chance of breaking Stars into the US market. If the price is anywhere within that gap in value, it's win/win (Rational sells for more than it's worth to them; buyer buys for less than it's worth to them)." We'll keep you posted on this still-developing story. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  5. There's more news about the rumor that Amaya Gaming is in talks to acquire PokerStars. According to Bloomberg, trading of Amaya's stock on the Toronto Stock Exchange was halted on Tuesday "following a 28% surge in the past two days." What the stoppage means regarding a potential acquisition, if anything, is not yet known, but a separate Bloomberg article stated that an announcement of a deal could come on Thursday. Bloomberg told readers, "The stock was halted for pending news, according to a statement from the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada." Spokesmen for Amaya and PokerStars declined to comment on the story. Trading was officially halted on Thursday after Amaya's stock rose another 17% to settle at CAD $14.08, up from just short of $6 in April. It's unclear whether the acquisition would involve the PokerStars brand, PokerStars software, PokerStars customer base, or the entire Rational Group, the latter of which includes PokerStars' sister site, Full Tilt. A reverse takeover is also not out of the question. An acquisition could also just involve the Full Tilt brand and/or software, allowing PokerStars to focus on its own brand. According to PokerScout, Full Tilt Poker, once the second largest site in the world in terms of cash game traffic, has slid to #5. It recently launched casino games and has seemingly struggled after being declared a "global Ponzi scheme" by the US Government. Bloomberg analyzed, "Acquiring PokerStars would mark a significant leap for Amaya in the $4 billion global business of online poker. The company, based near Montreal, generated $155 million in revenue last year. Gaining new ownership would remove an obstacle for PokerStars, the largest site of its kind, to return to the US after past clashes with authorities prevented the site from taking part in legal online gambling emerging in some states." In late May, Amaya responded to the acquisition rumors by coyly stating, "Strategic acquisitions have been and are one component of the company's growth strategy and, as such, Amaya regularly evaluates potential acquisition opportunities… From time to time, this process leads to discussions with potential acquisition targets, [but] there can be no assurance that any such discussions will ultimately lead to a transaction." A graph of Thursday's trading is given at left. PokerStars finalized its purchase of longtime rival Full Tilt Poker in mid-2012for nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars. Its founder, Isai Scheinberg, and its Director of Payments, Paul Tate, were among 11 individuals indicted on Black Friday on charges that included money laundering and wire fraud. Neither Tate nor Scheinberg has surrendered to US authorities. PokerStars has run into numerous setbacks while trying to reenter the US market. In New Jersey, the review of its gaming license was suspended for two years, while in California, a "bad actor" clause threatens to shut it out of the largest US state population-wise. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  6. On Thursday, Amaya Gaming purchased the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, the Rational Group, for $4.9 billion. The deal is expected to close in September and will make Amaya the largest publicly held internet gambling company on the face of the Earth. The question many players have been wondering is how fast we can expect to see PokerStarsand/or Full Tilt Poker reenter a regulated market in the US. According to longtime industry insider Joe Brennan, don't expect to see PokerStars back in the US immediately. Brennan told PocketFives on Friday, "This transaction, if it goes through, doesn't automatically bring PokerStars back to the US. The deal is likely to draw huge regulatory scrutiny and there's no doubt that Stars' foes - like Caesars - will double down on their efforts to have 'bad actor' clauses included and broadened in any US iGaming legislation." Amaya could face quite a hurdle in California, for example, where "intellectual property such as brands and software connected to online bets taken from the US market after December 31, 2006" are subject to "bad actor" ramifications, according to Online Poker Report. In New Jersey, Amaya is licensed and several internet gambling sites are up and running, so how PokerStars would ultimately break into the market, if at all, isn't clear. On the subject of New Jersey, eGaming Review published an article on Friday that explained, "Even if [Amaya and PokerStars] were to double the number of internet poker players in the Garden State, based on May's revenues, total poker rake would be around $5 million. While the increase would be welcome, it's far from being a game-changer. And what if PokerStars doesn't grow the market, but takes share away from those operators already live and struggling to turn a profit from their online operations?" Brennan also told PocketFives he believes "Amaya is getting PokerStars on the cheap." He rationalized, "PokerStars has over $1 billion in revenue and $420 million in EBIDTA. The multiple they're getting on that is extremely low. Consider that Uber, with revenue of $213 million, was just valued at $18 billion." Amaya purchased the Rational Group for 11x EBIDTA, which, according to eGaming Review, is "above the industry average, but still in line with the multiple paid by William Hill for Playtech's share of the William Hill Online joint venture last year." Therefore, in the online gambling world, 11x EBIDTA could be considered "fair" value. The deal is still subject to Amaya shareholder approval. According to Bloomberg, PokerStars CEO Mark Scheinberg, who will exit the company after the transaction is completed, owns 75% of the Rational Group. Moreover, the same article revealed that Rational "has no debt" to speak of. Scheinberg settled with the US DOJ one year ago. On Thursday, the Poker Players Alliance called the sale "encouraging news for millions of American players." We'll continue to keep you posted on the latest. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  7. Now here's a headline we didn't expect to write over the weekend. According to a report on CalvinAyre, "An agreement is in place that would see Amaya Gaming assume ownership of the Isle of Man-based online poker colossus [PokerStars], thereby clearing the way for the Stars brand to return to regulated US markets." Whether Amaya could acquire PokerStars from a financial standpoint wasn't clear. As CalvinAyre pointed out, the latter appears to have a far greater value than the former: "Amaya's market cap was hovering around $500 million. Stars is privately held and thus its total value can only be guessed at, but its asking price would presumably be seriously out of Amaya's budget. That is, unless some kind of reverse takeover is being planned, in which Amaya – which is already licensed to operate in New Jersey – would become Stars' new corporate face." Discuss the news in this PocketFives thread. PokerStars is the largest cash game site by a factor of 10, according to PokerScout, and has regular seven-figure prize pool tournaments despite no longer taking US players. Moreover, PokerStars' settlement with the US Department of Justicethat saw it acquire the assets of its longtime rival, Full Tilt Poker, weighed in at three-quarters of a billion dollars, which the same report noted was greater than Amaya's total market cap. PokerStars is facing plenty of hurdles to reenter the US market after being bucked from it on Black Friday, including a two-year license review suspension in New Jerseyand a potential "bad actor" clause in California and other states. Being absorbed or otherwise collaborating with another company, depending on the state, could provide a means to reenter the market. Amaya operates the Ongame Network and its stock is traded in Toronto under the symbol "AYA". On Friday, its stock closed up $1.15 to settle at $10.25 per share, a 12% spike. CalvinAyre added, "Friday's trading volume [was] nearly five times the daily average over the preceding three months." You'll recall that late last year, former COO of Tokwiro Enterprises Paul Leggett resurfaced at Amaya as the company's Head of Online. Tokwiro owned and operated the now defunct Absolute Poker and UB, whose US and non-US players have not been paid back after the two sites entered liquidation and went offline. Leggett reportedly left Amaya last November. E-mails sent from PocketFives to PokerStars and Amaya for reaction to the CalvinAyre story were not returned as of press time. We'll keep you posted on the latest. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  8. In comments made last week to the Las Vegas Review Journal, 888 CEO Brian Mattingley(pictured) said he would welcome the presence of PokerStarsin the US market. As you know by now, PokerStars and its sister site, Full Tilt Poker, were sold to Amaya Gaming for $4.9 billion in recent weeks in a deal that is scheduled to close in September. The transaction could bring PokerStars and Full Tilt back to the US. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsafe, one of the leading suppliers of online gaming products worldwide and a major sponsor of Gumball 3000. Sign up now for great bonuses, €3,000,000 guaranteed monthly, and plenty of live events! --- Even though 888 Pokerand PokerStars are competitors in the poker space, Mattingley emphasized the impact that the world's largest online poker site would have, telling the Nevada media outlet, "We compete with PokerStars throughout Europe. They are a formidable competitor. But, they would make all of us work much harder and it would expand the market. I would much rather have a small slice of a large pie than a big piece of a small pie… It would be like unleashing an 800-pound gorilla into the market, but having more players on a regulated site would benefit everyone." PokerStars is potentially facing the wrath of "bad actor" clauses in California and other states across the US. In some cases, like California, it appears that even a sale to Amaya might not help PokerStars enter the market, as software, player lists, and other integrated features are subject to the "bad actor" clause no matter who owns them. According to the Review Journal, "Mattingley said he didn't like 'bad actor clauses,' but thinks it might be too late to change the language in the regulations." Nevertheless, in April, PokerStars announced that it had entered an agreement with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens in California to offer online poker should a law exist that would make PokerStars' presence permissible. Speaking about PokerStars' sale to Amaya and the presence of "bad actor" clauses, Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO Mitch Garber (pictured) told the Review Journal, "Regulators and lawmakers have become increasingly sophisticated in understanding online businesses, their history, and other elements that contribute to the highest standards of suitability and probity." In recent days, Harvard Law School professor Laurence H. Tribe has questioned the constitutionality of "bad actor" clauses, potentially making the issue moot should they be formally challenged. Last week, Amaya and officials from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement resumed talks to bring PokerStars to the Garden State after the site's license review was suspended for two years pending "significantly changed circumstances," like, one would presume, a sale and removal of key executives and owners. We'll keep you posted on the latest poker legislation news right here on PocketFives. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  9. In a half-hour conference call held on Friday, one day after Amaya Gaming purchased PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, Amaya executives previewed what's to come for players on the largest and fifth largest online poker sites in the world. While no management changes are expected, it appears that a host of software modifications could be in store. A summary of the callappeared on PokerNews' website, which quoted Amaya CEO David Baazov as saying in part, "We intend to support the company growth in real money online casino, sports betting, and social gaming." Currently, PokerStars is poker-only, while Full Tilt recently launched casino gaming. The current product offering, according to PokerNews, means there are "great possibilities for future growth." A "fully-featured casino client" is supposedly in the works for later this year and, speaking on the strengths of PokerStars and Full Tilt, Baazov said, "[Rational's] companies do not only have the ability to attract new players, but they are also able to offer popular tables and slot games to their millions of players using their poker platforms." Sports betting and social gaming appear to be focal points for Amaya going forward with its newly acquired brands. Baazov, according to PokerNews, relayed, "We estimate we can become a strong operator in the [sports betting] market in a few years, keeping the existing online poker players from spending their dollars on other sports book operators… We anticipate social gaming will be an important growth opportunity for the company [since] Rational already has a huge database of play money poker players." In the press release announcing Amaya's acquisition of PokerStars' and Full Tilt's parent company, the Rational Group, no changes were anticipated from a player perspective: "Online poker services provided by PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will be unaffected by the transaction, with players continuing to enjoy uninterrupted access to their gaming experience." The deal is expected to close in September and is still subject to Amaya shareholder approval. The Rational Group's brands have over 85 million combined players, so there are plenty of people who will be affected. PocketFives Elite poster wackyJaxonis one of them, posting in a thread in the Poker Sites forum, "Since PokerStars is the biggest site we have right now, I wouldn't want to see any moves toward a different model with the new ownership… I don't see any positives with this for ROW players and see potential negatives. I am curious how they handle owning three networks (PokerStars, FTP, and Ongame) and where this goes." We'll keep you posted on the latest right here on PocketFives. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  10. On Friday, we'd expect to hear news that Canadian-based Amaya Gaming will be purchasing the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt Poker, the Isle of Man-based Rational Group. Blackstone, a US-based private equity firm, is reportedly raising $1 billion for the acquisition. All of this is according to Online Poker Report, Bloomberg, and our own sources. Amaya is already licensed in New Jersey, although whether it would bring the PokerStars or Full Tilt brands to the Garden State remains to be seen. According to 4Flush, a reverse takeover is planned. While Amaya is green-lighted in New Jersey, the license review for PokerStars was suspended for two years. The rationale: "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, and the involvement of certain PokerStars executives with internet gaming operations in the United States following the enactment of UIGEA." Trading of Amaya's stock in Toronto came to a halt midway through the day on Thursday after it had shot up 28% in two days and 17% on Thursday morning alone. In 2014, Amaya's stock is up 75%. It traded under $6 a share as recently as April and is currently at $14. The true value of PokerStars remains to be seen, as according to Online Poker Report, being acquired by Amaya doesn't automatically mean PokerStars will roll out in every state with legalized online gambling: "It's difficult to see the straight line between this deal and PokerStars' return to the American online poker market. For example, proposed legislation in California excludes not only operators, but also intellectual property such as brands and software connected to online bets taken from the US market after December 31, 2006." Many of the contacts PocketFives has spoken to have affirmed that a deal is on its way, and Bloomberg said an announcement could have come as soon as Thursday, although that didn't come to fruition. We'll keep you posted on Friday right here on PocketFives. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  11. Recently, an article published by CalvinAyre set the poker industry abuzz with rumors that the Canadian firm Amaya Gaming would purchase the online poker behemoth PokerStars. But this week, perhaps hoping to quell the gossip, Amaya decided to release a statement that was seen as a tacit denial of the surprising report. The first inkling of a deal came on May 16, when Industrial Alliance Securities analyst Neil Lindsell stated that Amaya would likely sell its Ongame poker network in order to "trade up" to a bigger platform, according to the CalvinAyre piece. Since then, the company's stock has shot up from CAD $7.71 at the end of that trading day to CAD $10.89 as of Thursday, or 40%. Later came the CalvinAyre article, which stated that "solid" sources had assured them that a deal between PokerStars and the gaming software provider was in the works. Responding to the high trading volume, Amaya stated that "strategic acquisitions have been and are one component of the company's growth strategy and, as such, Amaya regularly evaluates potential acquisition opportunities." It went on to explain that "from time to time, this process leads to discussions with potential acquisition targets," but that "there can be no assurance that any such discussions will ultimately lead to a transaction." It seems plausible that, at the very least, some level of talks took place that might have helped to spark the rumors. When comparing the spike in Amaya's share price to Lindsell's "trading up" statement, along with the fact that the company hasn't released any significant news in the past few weeks to prompt such a surge, the acquisition theory is compelling. But, there are several reasons why a deal between the two companies wouldn't make sense. For one, it would seem that Amaya, whose market cap hovers around $500 million, according to CalvinAyre, would have trouble coming up with enough cash to purchase a company as big as PokerStars. After all, the poker giant paid its way through Black Friday, even shelling out over $700 million to purchase Full Tilt Poker and pay back its American players in the process. Second, a PokerStars/Amaya deal could have negative regulatory implications for the company's dealings in the regulated US internet gambling market. "Amaya Gaming services virtually every casino platform in New Jersey," said industry expert John Mehaffey. "It also owns the Ongame platform used by Betfair. Introducing PokerStars ownership into the equation before the company is approved could create a licensing conflict." Yet even if there is, in fact, no deal between PokerStars and Amaya, some think that PokerStars could still be looking to sell in order to distance itself from founder Isai Scheinberg and his son and current CEO, Mark Scheinberg. It's no secret that the poker giant has pulled out all of the stops in its quest to reenter the US online gambling market; a deal that severs executive ties with the Scheinbergs could be a final attempt at allaying regulator's concerns. In New Jersey, PokerStars' licensing review was suspended for two years due to the alleged ongoing participation of the elder Scheinberg in the company and the site has already been locked out of Nevada due to a "bad actor" clause. For the moment, that leaves California, where the company is doing battle with gaming interests who hope to insert a similar clause into any legislation that legalizes internet gambling. PokerStars announced a major partnership in California with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens. "As a general policy, Amaya does not publicly comment on potential acquisitions unless and until a binding legal agreement has been signed," Amaya concluded. "The company intends to make no further comment or release regarding current market rumors unless and until such comment is warranted." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  12. On Wednesday, shareholders of Amaya Gaming approved the acquisition of the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt. Following the go-ahead from shareholders, Amaya Chairman and CEO David Baazov commented, "On behalf of the Board of Directors, I wish to extend my appreciation to shareholders for their overwhelming support of the acquisition of Rational Group." --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsson Poker, a leading global online gaming provider. Betsson Poker is available on Mobile and offers regular promotions to live events around the world along with great bonuses and competitions. Play nowfor a chance to win the a Dream Holiday with the Grand Poker Adventures throughout 2014! --- Amaya is buying the Rational Group for $4.9 billionin a deal that was announced in mid-June. Under its terms, Mark Scheinberg, Rational's founder and CEO, and "other principles of Oldford Group" will resign. Oldford is the parent company of Rational. Besides getting the green light from shareholders, Amaya has also received "all required approvals from the gaming regulatory authorities that currently license Rational Group," according to a press release sent out on Tuesday. Now, with Amaya's shareholders approving the deal, the gaming company plans "to move expeditiously towards completion of the transaction." Amaya's stock, which is traded in Toronto, reached a 52-week high in recent days, capitalizing on the momentum of the deal. Its stock, which can be found under the symbol "AYA", was fetching $29.09 CAD per share when we checked in on it on Thursday, about $1.50 off its 52-week high of $30.67. In the past 52 weeks, shares of AYA have been trading in a relatively wide range of $5.61 to $30.67 CAD. According to Yahoo, Amaya has a market cap of $2.74 billion, about half of the price tag it paid for Amaya. As outlined in the Financial Post, analysts from Global Maxfin Capital raised their target price for Amaya's stock from $30 to $35 CAD. According to the Globe and Mail, "The new combined company would have had $1.3 billion in sales and $474.8 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation." One of the stickiest points of the Rational Group purchase is Amaya assuming a mound of debt in order to acquire a company that's much larger. In order to finance the deal, according to the Globe and Mail, Amaya had to take on $2.9 billion in debt, so it was thought that convincing shareholders to do so could be a bit of a challenge. At the Borgata PocketFives Open this week in Atlantic City, much of the talk centered on PokerStars and/or Full Tilt reentering the US market in New Jersey. Reportedly, the two sites are just a handful of months away from launching in New Jersey and will partner with Resorts Atlantic City. Check out our New Jersey poker community to see what else Garden State players are discussing. Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest on the acquisition of PokerStars. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  13. If you blinked, then you might have missed that Full Tilt Pokerhas moved domains from FullTiltPoker.com to simply FullTilt.com. For now, the brand is still called Full Tilt Poker, but with the addition of casino games in recent weeks and a pending purchase by Amaya Gaming, we could see the word "Poker" dropped from the "Full Tilt Poker" brand in the not-too-distant future. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsafe, one of the leading suppliers of online gaming products worldwide and a major sponsor of Gumball 3000. Sign up now for great bonuses, €3,000,000 guaranteed monthly, and plenty of live events! --- A statement given to PocketFives by Full Tilt read in part, "As of Tuesday, July 8, 2014, Full Tilt Poker migrated their .COM and .EU domains from fulltiltpoker.com and fulltiltpoker.eu to the new URLs fulltilt.com and fulltilt.eu." Anyone who regularly sends traffic to Full Tilt was asked to take notice of the change. The casino side of Full Tilt offers blackjack, roulette, slots, and multi-player games, in stark contrast to Full Tilt's sister site, PokerStars, which for the time being remains only poker. In order to make up the debt assumed as part of its $4.9 billion purchase of PokerStars' and Full Tilt's parent company, Amaya could elect to license Full Tilt's software, and a re-brand could help the site diversify even more away from poker. To that end, according to a call from Amaya officials following the announcement of the acquisition of Full Tilt and PokerStars, it was revealed that sports betting and social gaming would be focal points for the two newly acquired sites. A "fully-featured casino client" is supposedly in the works for later this year and, speaking on the strengths of PokerStars and Full Tilt, Amaya officials said that the two sites "do not only have the ability to attract new players, but they are also able to offer popular tables and slot games to their millions of players using their poker platforms." Speaking on moving to FullTilt.com and FullTilt.eu, a Full Tilt rep told eGaming Review, "This year, our gaming portfolio on Full Tilt expanded to offer a range of single and multi-player variations of casino games. Therefore, we have now moved the domain from FullTiltPoker.com and FullTiltPoker.eu to FullTilt.com and FullTilt.eu." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  14. According to the Associated Press, talks between Amaya Gaming, which announced one week ago that it plans to acquire the parent company PokerStarsand Full Tilt, and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement will begin on Thursday. The focus: getting PokerStars licensed in the Garden State, a process that wound up in a dead end last December. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsson Poker, a leading global online gaming provider. Betsson Poker is available on Mobile and offers regular promotions to live events around the world along with great bonuses and competitions. Play now for a chance to win the a Dream Holiday with the Grand Poker Adventures throughout 2014! --- Amaya purchased the Rational Group, the parent company of Stars and Tilt, for $4.9 billion last week, making Amaya the largest publicly held internet gambling firm on the planet. You'll recall that last December, New Jersey gaming officials suspended their review of PokerStars' licensing application for two yearsdue primarily to "the unresolved Federal indictment against Isai Scheinberg for the alleged violation of Federal gambling statutes… and the involvement of certain PokerStars executives with internet gaming operations in the United States following the enactment of the UIGEA." Isai Scheinberg, his son and CEO Mark Scheinberg, and various Rational Group Board members will vacate their positions as part of the company's sale to Amaya, and the deal is scheduled to close in September. However, the "executive management" teams of PokerStars and Full Tilt will remain intact. New Jersey DGE Director David Rebuck (pictured) told the Associated Press, "We've had discussions with Amaya to reactivate the application and we plan to begin discussions with them [on Thursday]… We'll look at whatever they bring over… I think in the long-run it will be a good story for New Jersey. I'm optimistic that they know what the rules are and I fully expect them to be very aggressive because they want to be here." A spokesperson for Amaya told the Associated Press, "They are optimistic they will get this done quickly," with the AP alluding to the "fall" as its timeline for approval. Last July, PokerStars partnered with Resorts Atlantic City to offer online gambling in New Jersey, although whether the partnership will hold post-sale remains to be seen. Amaya currently works with sites like Ultimate Poker and CaesarsCasino.com in New Jersey, providing casino games. In its statement explaining its decision to suspend the review of PokerStars' application, DGE officials noted that "significantly changed circumstances" could result in the application once again being considered. One of the largest gambling-related sales ever and the departure of key owners could likely constitute such a circumstance. Visit PocketFives' New Jersey poker community for the latest on this still-developing story. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  15. Now that the sale of the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt Poker, to Amaya Gaming has been announced, several in the industry have begun speculating about the future of PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg (pictured, image courtesy Bloomberg) The Canadian and Israeli in his mid-60s was one of 11 individuals indicted on Black Friday, but has yet to turn himself into US authorities or settle in any way. Scheinberg has denied all charges and when PokerStars settled with the Department of Justice in July 2012, the company admitted no wrongdoing. In an e-mail sent to members on Friday, the Poker Players Alliance, the main lobbying voice for poker players on Capitol Hill in the US, asserted that Scheinberg settling with American authorities would help turn the page on Black Friday. PPA Executive Director John Pappas wrote in the e-mail, "The players have asked and the media has speculated whether yesterday's acquisition would accelerate resolution of Isai Scheinberg's outstanding issues with the US Department of Justice. I certainly hope there is swift resolution of these matters. It is important for the poker community to close the Black Friday chapter and move forward. An agreement between Mr. Scheinberg and the DOJ would help do that." The sale was worth $4.9 billion and is expected to close in September. According to Bloomberg, Isai's son, Mark Scheinberg (pictured below, image courtesy Bloomberg), owns 75% of the Rational Group and is in line for a major payday as a result of the acquisition. He is selling his shares and resigning. As Online Poker Report's Chris Grove speculated, "Rumors that Isai Scheinberg is discussing a settlement with the DOJ have been swirling for months. This deal could represent a step in that direction, providing ready cash for a settlement and (arguably) a greater motivation for Isai Scheinberg to close the chapter completely. A deal would almost certainly come with an eight- or nine-figure fine attached. All parties involved are no doubt keen to reach a resolution, as none benefit at this point from the saga… dragging on." How much could Scheinberg's fine actually be? Last June, Mark Scheinberg settled with the DOJ for $50 million"as full and final resolution of any and all claims by the United States," according to the document outlining the agreement. In 2008, Anurag Dikshit, one of the founders of Party Gaming, forfeited $300 million and sold his Party Gaming shares in 2009. Also in 2009, Party Gaming agreed to a non-prosecution agreementwith the DOJ and paid $105 million. PokerStars' settlement with the DOJ, which involved acquiring its longtime rival Fill Tilt, weighed in at three-quarters of a billion dollars. Scheinberg was charged on Black Friday with conspiracy to violate the UIGEA, violating the UIGEA, operating an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy. PokerStars Director of Payments Paul Tate was also indicted, but, like Scheinberg, has not surrendered to US authorities. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  16. On Thursday, Amaya Gaming made the stunning announcement that it would acquire PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and parent company Rational Group in a $4.9 billion deal. With the exception of a few rumors, the agreement came virtually out of the blue, and many found it hard to believe that the Canadian firm would be able to put up enough cash for such a large transaction. But now that the deal has been announced, poker players in the US have turned to the forums in force, expressing their thoughts on the ramifications of the massive sale. Upon hearing the news, many players were excited for the implications of the acquisition. According to one PocketFives poster, the buzz was palpable in New Jersey. "This is all they were talking about at my table yesterday in Borgata. Excited is an understatement," he said. John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, released a similarly enthusiastic statement, saying, "Amaya's acquisition should remove any perceived impediment for this popular brand to once again be available to players in regulated US jurisdictions." As part of the deal, Isai Scheinberg and CEO Mark Scheinbergwill cut ties completely with PokerStars, clearing up a major sticking point that US regulators had with the company. "This purchase is some of the best news for online poker players in a long time, imo," said PokerXanadu on TwoPlusTwo. "The market leader now has a much clearer path to entry in the US market and will be a strong force toward authorizing legislation and cross-jurisdictional pooling." But some players were skeptical that site would continue down the same path without its founders. "The Scheinbergs made PokerStars - if they're out, then it doesn't necessarily mean that PokerStars will remain the same company that we all like and respect," said poster Sciolist. Others saw the sale as a big blow to the online gaming opposition in the US. In a response to a comment regarding Sheldon Adelson's (pictured) crusade against the industry, poster Willyoman highlighted some of Amaya's big-name backers, including Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and Blackstone. "I feel pretty good (huge understatement) about seeing some of the world's most respected and well capitalized financial firms placing fairly large bets on online poker," he said. "I think this is the best news since Black Friday." A Twitter comment by Justin ZeeJustinBonomo brought to light the fact that PokerStars' sale to Amaya is not a slam-dunk for the popular brand's reentry into the US. Asking his followers to "speculate wildly" on what the sale could mean, industry analyst Chris Grove chimed in, saying, "Very little." Expanding on his answer, Grove brought up the fact that much of the legislation proposed in states considering legalizing iGaming includes "bad actor" language. "In NJ, maybe. Other states are looking at much broader approach to bad actor that sale won't solve," he said. "For example, CA bill as proposed would prohibit Stars software / brand / db no matter who owns it." Amaya CEO David Baazov stated that the deal has reportedly been in the works for close to a year. The transaction is expected to close in September of this year and will give Amaya control of not only the two poker brands, but also popular events like the European Poker Tour, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and Latin American Poker Tour. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  17. After a long day of speculation, it was revealed on Thursday night that Amaya Gaming has acquired the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStarsand Full Tilt Poker, for $4.9 billion. According to a press release, it's still subject to Amaya shareholder approval. Earlier today, we learned about the suspension of trading of Amaya's stockin Toronto. Then, we learned that Blackstone was raising $1 billion in funding. Now, we can get into the nitty-gritty details of the sale. According to the release, the shareholders of the Oldford Group, the parent company of the Rational Group, "will dispose of their shares to a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amaya." Mark Scheinberg, Rational's founder and CEO, and "other principles of Oldford Group" will resign once the transaction has been completed, potentially satisfying issues New Jersey regulators hadwith the presence of Isai Scheinberg and other post-UIGEA executives. Speaking of executives, "Rational Group's executive management team will be retainedand online poker services provided by PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will be unaffected by the transaction, with players continuing to enjoy uninterrupted access to their gaming experience." PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker have a combined 85 million registered users. Whether the presence of PokerStars' and Full Tilt's executive management teams will complicate any "bad actor" issues in the US remains to be seen. David Baazov (pictured), CEO of Amaya, said about the long-rumored acquisition, "This is a transformative acquisition for Amaya, strengthening our core B2B operations with a consumer online powerhouse that creates a scalable global platform for growth. Mark Scheinberg pioneered the online poker industry, building a remarkable business and earning the trust of millions of poker players by delivering the industry's best game experiences, customer service and online security. Working with the experienced executive team at Rational Group, Amaya will continue that tradition of excellence and accelerate growth into new markets and verticals." Mark Scheinberg added, "I am incredibly proud of the business Isai and I have built over the last 14 years, creating the world's biggest poker company and a leader in the iGaming space. Our achievements and this transaction are an affirmation of the hard work, expertise, and dedication of our staff, which I am confident will continue to drive the company's success. The values and integrity which have shaped this company are deeply ingrained in its DNA. David Baazov has a strong vision for the future of the Rational Group which will lead the company to new heights." Now on to the topic the poker community has speculated about, the prospects of PokerStars and/or Full Tilt returning to US soil. "Bad actor" clauses in states like California may still prove to be problematic even under the new ownership, according to Online Poker Report, but the press release argued, "Amaya believes the transaction will expedite the entry of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker into regulated markets in which Amaya already holds a footprint, particularly the USA." Amaya will introduce more casinos games into the Full Tilt Poker client and help Rational's brand gain strongholds in sports betting, casino gaming, and social gaming. If you're a finance person, here's how the sale breaks down: $2.1 billion in senior secured credit facilities, $800 million in senior secured second lien term loans, $1 billion to be raised through the issuance of convertible preferred shares, $460 million to be raised through the issuance of subscription receipts, and about $540 million in cash. This paragraph uses language directly from the press release to avoid any interpretation. The Boards of Directors of both companies have already approved the transaction and Amaya's Board will remain the same following the deal, meaning it doesn't look like a reverse takeover as some had predicted. Stay tuned to PocketFives for complete reaction and analysis to one of the biggest stories we've reported in several years. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  18. On Friday, PokerStarsannounced that it will roll out blackjack and roulette "on a market-by-market basis beginning this month with completion anticipated by the end of 2014 reaching nearly half PokerStars' current player base. PokerStars will add sports betting and other popular casino games in 2015. It also plans to launch a fully-featured casino on mobile and web in 2015." --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by William Hill Poker, one of the largest skins on the iPoker Network. The poker room offers a generous welcome package including a 200% deposit bonus up to $2,000 and a superb VIP program. Visit William Hill today! --- The move comes as a result of Amaya Gaming, the former owners of the Ongame Network, purchasing PokerStarsand its sister site, Full Tilt, earlier this year. Amaya officials stressed the importance of sports betting and casino games to the company's overall strategy, bucking the historically poker-centric focus of PokerStars. PokerStars launched casino games on its dot-es client already and Full Tilt players saw casino games added to their client in January of this year. Eric Hollreiser, Head of Corporate Communications for PokerStars, commented in Friday's press release, "We are taking the same principles, practices, and integrity that make PokerStars such a successful and beloved brand and applying them to new verticals. These new products will also support the development of poker and grow the overall business." According to PokerStars, Full Tilt players have adopted casino games thus far. In fact, 30% of the site's user base plays casino games every month, while "50% of Full Tilt casino players say that the site is the only online casino at which they play." For players who are concerned they'll dump their entire bankroll into sports betting and casino games, PokerStars is offering the option of hiding the links to the new games and opting out of marketing and other correspondence about them. Additionally, PokerStars does not see the new games having a deleterious effect on the poker ecosystem. As Hollreiser explained, "The experience on our poker platforms to-date shows increases in net player deposits following the addition of casino games and a negligible impact on poker spend. We are confident these games will create more value to our PokerStars site and bolster the core poker offering." If you don't already have a PokerStars account, sign up through the links on PocketFives to get a 100% up to $600 deposit bonus and one free month of Tournament Poker Edge or CardRunners poker training. Get started here. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  19. In June of this year, Amaya Gaming announced it had purchased the Rational Group, the owners of Full Tiltand PokerStars. The transaction has set off a chain of events including increased rakeat PokerStars' tables, changes to forex policies, and a rumored overhaul of the site's VIP program. The transaction has also increased Amaya's revenues by a factor of six, according to eGaming Review. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by William Hill Poker, one of the largest skins on the iPoker Network. The poker room offers a generous welcome package including a 200% deposit bonus up to $2,000 and a superb VIP program. Visit William Hill today! --- EGR detailed in an article published on Friday, "In its first set of results since the acquisition was completed on 1 August, the Canadian company's total revenues for the three months ended 30 September were CA $239 million, up from $39 million in Q3 2013." The company posted a net loss of $26 million, up from a loss of $1.6 million. Expenses at Amaya were also up big. EGR explained, "Total expenses were up 530% from $34 million in Q3 2013 to $214.4 million, driven by general and administrative expenses resulting from the consolidation of Amaya's B2B business and its Diamond Game acquisition, plus non-recurring acquisition costs related to the Rational Group takeover." As part of the Rational Group purchase, Amaya officials announced that the management teams of PokerStars and Full Tilt would largely remain intact. To that end, Amaya CEO David Baazov was quoted as saying, "In these early days, I could not be happier with the initial performance of the business and the professionalism and expertise of the PokerStars management team. They are implementing strategic plans that leverage exciting, innovative poker variants, new gaming verticals, and the mobile platform to increase engagement and new customer acquisition." It was also announced on Friday that Amaya had sold its Ongame B2B arm to NYX Gaming. EGR outlined that the deal was "for up to 8x Ongame's 2015 EBITDA, less any required working capital, as the firm looks to focus on its B2C poker operations… Under the deal, Amaya said it would make a $10 million 'strategic investment' in NYX Gaming Group and would also expand its partnership with NYX subsidiary NextGeb Gaming, which supplies Amaya with online slots content." Amaya is among the rumored suitors for bwin.party, whose executives confirmed that they are exploring a variety of potential business arrangements. PokerStars, meanwhile, announced the Billionth Tournament Carnival this week to celebrate the site's one-billionth tournament. The milestone event will occur on November 30, have a $109 buy-in, have a $2 million guarantee, and shell out $200,000 in added prizes. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  20. After rumors rampantly raced around the industry, it was confirmed by the second largest internet gaming company that it was in discussions with "multiple parties" regarding the sale of all or parts of the business. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by William Hill Poker, one of the largest skins on the iPoker Network. The poker room offers a generous welcome package including a 200% deposit bonus up to $2,000 and a superb VIP program. Visit William Hill today! --- The Gibraltar-based bwin.party confirmed to eGaming Reviewon Wednesday that the company is in talks with several organizations. "Further to recent media speculation regarding a possible bid for bwin.party, the Board… confirms that it has entered into preliminary discussions with a number of interested parties regarding a variety of potential business combinations with a view to creating additional value for bwin.party shareholders," the company stated in an official release. "Such discussions may or may not result in an offer being made for the company. However, as all such discussions remain at a preliminary stage, there can be no certainty as to whether or not they will result in any form of transaction with any party." While the official statement didn't list any of the potential companies, there has been speculation about the list of suitors. At the top of the list is Amaya Gaming, which recently completed the purchase of the Rational Group, the ownership behind PokerStarsand Full Tilt Poker. This possibility could potentially be a longshot, as it would give Amaya an unprecedented monopoly on the online gaming and poker market, not to mention be pricey. A "private equity firm" has been confirmed as "taking a look" at bwin.party, according to eGaming Review. The long history of bwin.party demonstrates the tumultuous nature of the online gaming industry. Originally known as betandwin.com when it was founded in 1997, bwinwas born in 2006 and became one of the strongest online sports betting sites in Europe. Founded that same year, Party Gaming went in the direction of online poker with its powerhouse site PartyPoker and, in 2009, purchased the World Poker Tour from WPT Enterprises. After two years of negotiations, the companies merged in 2011 to create the largest online gaming and poker company in the industry. Once the merger was completed, the newly created bwin.party traded on the London Stock Exchange for 205.07 pence, putting its value at over $1 billion. Since the merger, however, the stock has slipped with increased competition around the globe. After bottoming out at 101 pence in late 2012, bwin.party's stock rebounded to 154 pence in March 2013. Trading at 89.65 pence as late as October 31 of this year, the news of a potential sale drove the stock price up to 119.10 pence at the close of business on Wednesday in London. Even though the stock price isn't what it once was, bwin.party would be attractive to anyone in the online gaming and poker industry. Currently in a dead heat with Full Tilt Poker on the PokerScoutrankings for fifth place in terms cash game volume, the bwin.party poker software and customer lists would be desirable to own. The same could be said of the company's sports betting operations, considered one of the best in the industry. We'll keep you posted on the latest right here on PocketFives. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  21. As 2015 officially begins, we take a look back at five of the biggest poker news stories of 2014. At the end of the article, let us know what other headlines you thought were memorable this year. 5. Christian Lusardi Causes Havoc at Borgata with Counterfeit Chips Tournament organizers at Borgata's Winter Poker Open in January were forced to cancel the event after finding that several bogus poker chips had been introduced into play. Christian Lusardi (pictured) of Fayetteville, North Carolina was quickly identified as the culprit and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Lusardi had made out well in the tournament, winning $6,814 with the help of his homemade chips. Authorities caught a break when the staff at Harrah's Atlantic City found even more of the phony chips clogging the pipes of Lusardi's bathroom. After the tournament was shut down, some players were unhappy with the Borgata's settlement and filed a lawsuit against the casino, accusing it of negligence. Lusardi is charged with rigging a publicly exhibited contest, criminal attempt, and theft by deception. 4. Phil Ivey's High-Stakes Baccarat Escapades Last year, Phil Ivey (pictured) went on the heater of a lifetime, winning $12.5 million playing Punto Banco at the posh Crockfords Casino in London. Crockfords, however, refused to pay the 10-time bracelet winner, claiming he had used a prohibited method called edge-sorting to illegally win the cash. Ivey filed suit against Crockfords and asserted that the controversial technique didn't break any laws. In October, a judge sided with Crockfords and ruled that Ivey's manipulative behavior during the baccarat sessions would be considered "cheating for the purpose of civil law." Ivey himself is being sued by Borgata, which also claims the 38-year-old cheated using edge-sorting to pocket $9.6 million. 3. Gus Hansen's Epic Losing Streak High-stakes pro Gus Hansen will not be ringing in 2015 on a high note, at least in regards to poker. The "Great Dane" reached the grim milestone of surpassing $20 million in online losses to become the biggest loser in online poker history. Before Black Friday saw Full Tilt Poker shut down, Hansen had been in the midst of a $7 million upswing. When the site reopened, however, he lost all of it back, plus $10 million more, as he stubbornly refused to move down in limits. Hansen spoke about the losses in an interview, saying, "I can't keep losing… At some point, I have to quit." Hansen and high-stakes legend Viktor Blom were recently stripped of their sponsorship deals with Full Tilt Poker. 2. Dan Colman Wins Millions, Refuses to Promote Poker With over $22 million in winnings in 2014, Dan Colman (pictured) had a year about which most could only dream. The young pro started the year strong, pocketing $2,127,398 for his first place finish in the EPT Monte Carlo Super High Roller Event and followed that up with a third place finish for $111,942 at the WSOP. But those big wins pale in comparison to the $15,306,668 Colman banked for besting the tough field in the $1 Million Big One for One Drop. To the chagrin of the poker media, Coleman refused to give interviews or even take pictures after the massive win. Choosing instead to make a statement on 2+2, Colman called poker "a very dark game" and said he didn't "owe poker a single thing." He later unleashed on Phil Hellmuth, calling "The Poker Brat" a "whore" and a "cancer" who would promote anything for money. Seeing his comments quickly spread through the poker world, he issued somewhat of an apology to Hellmuth. 1. Amaya Gaming Buys PokerStars and Full Tilt for $4.9 Billion By far the biggest poker story of the year was Amaya's surprise acquisition of the online gambling giant PokerStars. Rumors of the sale first began to swirl in August, with the all-cash $4.9 billion deal confirmed in June. The purchase helped to elegantly solve the company's issues with breaking into the regulated US i-gaming market. PokerStars was denied a license to operate in New Jersey due to the continued involvement of founders Isai and Mark Scheinberg in the business. The sale to Amaya allowed the father and son to cash out, while allowing the company to present a cleaner image to US regulators. PokerStars has recently begun to make some controversial changes, like cutting loose nonproductive affiliates, raising rake, and reducing its sponsor player roster. It has still yet to break into the US market. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  22. According to State Senator Raymond Lesniak (pictured), PokerStars, the world's largest online poker site, will launch in New Jersey in March. Now that the so-called "lame duck" session of Congress in the US is behind us and lawmakers around the country have taken their posts, the focus in New Jersey may now shift to PokerStars being licensed. Longtime industry pro and Online Poker Report front man Chris Grove Tweeted to Lesniak on Saturday, "What about PokerStars - how's that appeal going?" Lesniak responded, "March 2015." You can follow Grove on Twitter at @OPReport. You can follow Lesniak at @SenatorLesniak. Lesniak, who said late last year that PokerStars was in "time out" in New Jersey, added on Twitter, "Adelson's play to ban eGaming in Congress is dead and PokerStars' new ownership [is] too formidable to deny." In the middle of 2014, Amaya Gaming bought PokerStarsand its sister site, Full Tilt, for $4.9 billion to create the largest publicly traded internet gambling company in the world. In the process, it eliminated PokerStars' ownership during Black Friday. During last year's lame duck session, it appeared that New Jersey officials would let Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson (pictured) potentially ban internet gambling in the US at the Federal level before deciding what to do with PokerStars in the Garden State. Online Poker Reportelaborated, "It's worth noting that Lesniak isn't the only voice suggesting that PokerStars' outlook in New Jersey has improved. A recent note from Adam Krejcik at Eilers Research put PokerStars' chances of cracking the New Jersey market in 2015 at better than 50%." In PocketFives' New Jersey pokercommunity, PocketFives co-founder Adam Small said in a thread, "The assumption continues to be that Stars/Tilt will get approved. This hasn't really changed since the Amaya acquisition. The only thing that's changed, from where I'm standing, is ETA. That still appears to be very much in the air." Rumors circulated, for example, that PokerStars would launch in New Jersey last October, but those didn't pan out. Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  23. Following an ongoing investigation by the Canadian regulatory agency for financial transactions, an agency in the United States has also launched an investigation into Amaya Gaming and its purchase of PokerStars in 2014. According to reports from Canada's The Globe and Mail, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is looking into approximately 300 investors who profited heavily off Amaya Gaming's purchase of PokerStars. At the end of 2014, FINRA sent a request to Amaya for information about individuals who bought up sizeable amounts of Amaya stock prior to the announcement of the PokerStars deal, looking to see if there were any instances of insider trading that might have taken place. The investigation isn't being led by the US Government, however. FINRA is a watchdog group that was created by the financial industry as a method of self-regulation outside of the Federal Government's regulatory agencies. It is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the US, monitoring the companies that make up several of the top commodity exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. In examining Amaya Gaming, FINRA has some interesting evidence to look at from before the PokerStars acquisition. Amaya stated during the reporting of its first quarter 2014 earnings that a "significant acquisition" was on the horizon. From the timing of that announcement on May 15, the stock price of Amaya doubled over the next two weeks as speculation over Amaya's acquisition gained steam. By the time the actual purchase of PokerStars by Amaya was officially announced, the stock price for Amaya had nearly tripled and, since that point, it has peaked in price at more than five times what it was worth after the first quarter 2014 financial reports. The Globe and Mail states that this is one of the largest inquiries into the actions of a company that falls under its self-regulation. FINRA is reportedly looking at "prominent Canadian brokers, money managers, hedge funds, and business executives" who may have utilized inside information to get a jump on the markets. While FINRA's inquiry isn't an official action from the US Government, its timing is difficult for Amaya. In December, the Canadian government raided the offices of Amayathrough its regulatory agency, Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF). The AMF confiscated computers, paperwork, and other property, looking into the potential for insider trading. Amaya stated to The Globe and Mail that it is cooperating with FINRA's "request for information." The Globe and Mail also quoted Amaya officials as saying FINRA's inquiry "does not necessarily lead to an investigation" and that only the Canadian action is considered a true "investigation" of the company. The new inquiry from FINRA, along with Canada's AMF investigation, has had a significant effect on Amaya Gaming stock. Following the start of the Canadian investigation in December, Amaya's stock plunged on the Toronto Stock Exchange from $35.06 to $27.50. The stock had been able to recover to $34.25 as recently as February 5, but the announcement of the FINRA inquiry has knocked it down again. As of Wednesday morning, Amaya is trading at $31.54. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  24. According to a variety of sites, including Online Poker Report, Amaya Gaming has asserted that a mobile pop-up alerting players that real money Full Tilt games were available in New Jersey was an error. Call it a Garden State SNAFU that briefly energized the community that Full Tilt was going to enter the market effective immediately. "We have been developing a real money mobile poker app that has been submitted to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement as part of the review process of our application to offer real money gaming under a NJ DGE license," the statement from Amaya read. "Unfortunately, a bug in an update to the Full Tilt play money poker app inadvertently included a pop-up window alerting players in New Jersey that a licensed real money offering was available." According to Amaya, "a very small number of people were exposed to this pop-up before we resolved the issue... At no time was a real money app available. No one had the ability to play real money games, nor register for the ability to play real money games, on Full Tilt." The pop-up in question was shown to players who use Full Tilt's mobile app and proclaimed, "We are pleased to announce that we have a new version of our game software fully licensed by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement offering real money game play on a fully regulated online gaming platform." You can see why the excitement level was briefly elevated. The inadvertent launch seems to have been ahead of its time by about two months, as according to New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who has been leading the i-gaming charge in the Garden State, the earliest we'd likely see PokerStars, and presumably its sister site Full Tilt, is March. Visit PocketFives' New Jersey poker community for the latest news and discussion from New Jersey players. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  25. On Thursday, PocketFives brought you an article about Canadian officials showing up at the offices of Amaya Gaming, the owners of PokerStars and Full Tilt, reportedly due to insider trading associated with the company's purchase of the Rational Group back in June. As you might guess, a visit from the fuzz didn't go over too well with investors. The verdict: the stock's price sank by 18% on Friday. According to a Bloomberg article, "Shares of Amaya slumped to C$28.60 at the close in Toronto trading, the biggest drop since July 2010. The stock had surged more than fourfold this year through yesterday, making it one of the best performers in Canada." The stock had fetched around C$10 a share as recently as the beginning of June, but nearly lapped C$40 last month. In the last 52 weeks, shares of Amaya have traded between C$5.61 and C$39.25. It has a market cap of C$3.7 billion and is currently the largest publicly traded online gambling firm in the world. Amaya officials responded to the raid by saying, "To the Corporation's knowledge, this does not involve any allegations of wrongdoing by the Corporation. Amaya will continue to cooperate, if and as requested, consistent with our practice to always cooperate with regulatory authorities. The Corporation will continue to monitor the investigation if and as it proceeds. The investigation has had no impact on Amaya's business operations, employees, or companies." Bloomberg added, "Amaya, Canaccord Genuity Group Inc., and Manulife Financial Corp. all had offices searched by investigators on December 10 as part of the probe." Amaya has remained focused on bringing PokerStars back to the New Jersey market, which, like the rest of the US, it abandoned on Black Friday. However, the company is in "time out" in New Jersey until Q1 2015 or later. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
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