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Found 13 results

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. In an article that eGaming Reviewpublished on Friday, Amaya CEO David Baazov (pictured) reiterated his company's commitment to an online casino and sports book following the acquisition of the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. The transaction officially closed earlier this month, well ahead of schedule. --- 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! --- Baazov was quoted by EGR as saying that the acquisition of the Rational Group "has provided Amaya with a 'strong platform for growth in revenues and profitability.' He also said the deal offered 'an enormous opportunity' to 'take advantage of opportunities in online casino and sports book.'" In order to soothe concerns of those who have pointed out that PokerStars' success in poker has come at least in part because the company has almost exclusively focused on the game, Baazov added, "With respect to the new verticals, we are determined that they do not provide any disruption to the core poker offering and that the new vertical offerings are as robust and enjoyable as Rational's online poker." Last month, Full Tilt Poker dropped the word "Poker" from its domain, which is now simply FullTilt.com. According to PocketFives' article at the time, "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.'" Rumors have been swirling that PokerStars and Full Tilt could launch in New Jersey, one of three regulated markets in the US, as soon as October, which is a scant two months away. In New Jersey, PokerStars could take on the role of a poker-centric brand, while Full Tilt could offer an array of casino games. The likely land-based casino partner for both brands is Resorts. It should be noted that New Jersey lacks legalized sports betting. Amaya's acquisition of the Rational Group came with a price tag of $4.9 billion and a mountain of debt for the Canadian firm. Nevertheless, Amaya is now the largest publicly traded online gambling firm on the face of the Earth. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. [caption width="640"] Amaya CEO David Baazov is facing insider trading charges[/caption] In the middle of June 2014, Amaya Gaming bought the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars and its sister site, Full Tilt Poker, for $4.9 billion. Amaya's stock, which is traded in Toronto under the symbol 'AYA', increased in value by 50% in the days leading up to the transaction, prompting an investigation by Canadian authorities. One day after the acquisition was announced, Amaya's stock went up another 30%. On Wednesday, that investigation came to a head, as the Autorté des Marchés Financiers (AMF), Quebec's securities regulator, filed 23 charges related to insider trading, five of which involve Amaya Gaming Chief Executive Officer David Baazov. Specifically, Baazov is accused of aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya securities, and communicating privileged information. The charges could result in hefty fines or jail time for Baazov and the others charged. Baazov released a statement Wednesday morning proclaiming his innocence and predicting his name would eventually be cleared. "These allegations are false and I intend to vigorously contest these accusations. While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF's decision, I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all charges," Baazov said. The charges are related to trading of Amaya stock between December 2013 and June 2014, a period of six months. "We have made suppressing illegal insider trading and market manipulation a top priority, as this type of conduct profoundly affects public confidence and the integrity of our markets," said AMF President and CEO Louis Morisset. "David Baazov has the full support of the independent members of the board," said Dave Gadhia, Amaya's Lead Director. "As noted previously, Amaya conducted an external internal review, supervised by its independent board members… which thoroughly reviewed the relevant internal activities surrounding the Oldford Group acquisition. This review found no evidence of any violations of Canadian securities laws or regulations. The independent members of the board received and reviewed the information and concluded that no action should be taken. We have not been provided with any new information upon which the AMF's allegations of infractions are based." [caption width="640"] The rise and fall of Amaya's stock over the last two years[/caption] According to Amaya, the charges Baazov faces involve "communicating privileged information involve allegations relating to a former financial advisor to Amaya," whom the Globe and Mail says is Yoel Altman, who faces six charges of his own. Benjamin Ahdoot (a childhood friend of Baazov, facing four charges), Diocles Capital Inc (five charges), Sababa Consulting Inc. (three), and 2374879 Ontario Inc. (three) were also singled out by AMF. In December 2014, Canadian officials showed up at Amaya's headquarters in Montreal searching for information related to the company's acquisition of the Rational Group. In subsequent days, Amaya's stock price tumbled 20%. On Wednesday, trading of 'AYA' was suspended in the wake of AMF's announcement. The company was originally listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in October 2013. Amaya added that it was fully cooperating with AMF and said it had already given the Canadian regulatory agency a "large amount of publicly accessible information related to the time period leading up to the transaction, specifically the period the AMF is investigating." A summary of that information will soon be available on Amaya's website. An hour after AMF's initial press release charging Baazov, Altman, and Ahdoot, another release announced that 13 individuals would have their trading privileges suspended because of their alleged ties to insider trading involving Amaya: Josh Baazov, Craig Levett, Nathalie Bensmihan, Isam Mansour, Mona Kassfy, Allie Mansour, John Chatzidakis, Eleni Psicharis, Alain Anawati, Karl Fallenbaum, Earl Levett, Feras Antoon, and Mark Wael Antoon. Josh Baazov is David Baazov's brother. In February, it was rumored that Baazov and a group of investors were planning to acquire Amaya in an all-cash takeover. That news sent Amaya's stock soaring by one-third. It was trading at $15.30 per share in Toronto prior to being halted on Wednesday.
  13. [caption width="640"] Amaya Chairman and CEO David Baazov has stepped aside - temporarily - to deal with insider trading allegations.[/caption] Just days after being charged with insider trading, David Baazov has taken an indefinite paid leave of absence from his role as Amaya Chair CEO to deal with the allegations. He will remain a member of the board of directors. Last Wednesday, Autorité des Marchés Financiers, the securities regulator in Quebec, announced they had filed 23 charges related to insider trading at Amaya. Five of those charges were levied at Baazov including aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya securities, and communicating privileged information. Amaya acquired the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands in June 2014. After the charges were announced, Baazov proclaimed his innocence. "These allegations are false and I intend to vigorously contest these accusations," Baazov said. "While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF's decision, I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all charges." Others charged included Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot, both described by AMF as close friends of Baazov. With Baazov stepping aside, at least temporarily, Amaya's board of directors named Divyesh Gadhia as interim chairman and Rafi Ashkenazi as interim CEO. Ghadia is currently on the Amaya board of directors, while Ashkenazi is the CEO of Rational Group, the company which oversees the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands. Despite the charges, which could result in fines, jail time or a combination of those for Baazov, he has indicated he still intends to pursue an acquisition of Amaya. "As always, I continue to be dedicated to doing the right thing for Amaya and all its stakeholders. I believe that stepping down in the short term will help to avoid distraction for the company and its management while I vigorously contest all allegations made against me and pursue my bid to acquire the company," Baazov said in a statement. Ghadia is also the chair of the special committee of independent directors, which was established to handle any potential sale or transfer of Amaya ownership, including the interest shown by Baazov. Rumors of Baazov's interest in acquiring the publicly traded company first surfaced in February and the news sent Amaya's stock price on a nearly 30% upswing. The day the charges were announced, Amaya stock price fell from $18.57 to $14.75 - a 21% decrease.
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