Says balance needed to ensure integrity, business investment
As chief regulator for New Jersey’s struggling casino industry, Matthew Levinson has an interesting balancing act.
The Casino Control Commission must ensure the market is free of corruption. At the same time, turning away potential investment could be viewed as counterproductive.
Levinson, 33, was appointed to a five-year term as the commission’s seventh chairman in August by Gov. Chris Christie.
In less than eight months on the job, he has experienced the gaming market’s financial ebbs and flows, the weeklong closure of casinos in October because of Superstorm Sandy, the emergence of online gaming giant PokerStars as buyer of a struggling Boardwalk casino, and the application of MGM Resorts International to regain its gaming license that it surrendered in 2010 after a stipulated agreement with the Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Also, New Jersey lawmakers approved legislation allowing Atlantic City casinos to offer Internet gaming, and Christie has pushed the casinos to allow sports wagering, a move being fought in federal court.
Caesars v. PokerStars fight for dibs on American players?
Attorneys for online gaming giant PokerStars said an attempt by the American Gaming Association to block the company from buying a failing Atlantic City casino was a thinly veiled anti-competitive campaign to keep new ownership out of the market.
In a lengthy letter to New Jersey gaming regulators, attorneys for PokerStars ownership, The Rational Group, said the American Gaming Association lacks standing in the matter.
Attorneys also raised a reported offer by Caesars Entertainment Corp. to sell the Rio to PokerStars. According to the letter, Caesars offered to sell the off-Strip casino to PokerStars because it would better the two companies relationship and would help PokerStars earn a Nevada gaming license.
PokerStars declined the offer because it had no plans to acquire another casino in the near term, according to a letter dated March 10 from Washington, D.C., attorneys Jeff Ifrah and David Deitch. Within weeks the AGA submitted its petition to the (New Jersey Casino Control) Commission.
PokerStars avoids regulatory tangle by not taking the bait
Caesars Entertainment Corp. reportedly offered to sell the off-Strip Rio and the World Series of Poker to PokerStars, a spokesman for the owner of the online gaming business claimed in an email Tuesday.
The statement by Eric Hollreiser, head of corporate communications for The Rational Group, came a day after attorneys for the American Gaming Association wrote in a legal brief that PokerStars had been a “criminal enterprise for many years.”
The Washington, D.C.-based trade organization wants New Jersey gaming regulators to reject PokerStars’ application to operate the failing Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City.
Caesars representatives declined to comment on any “assertions” made by PokerStars.
Hollreiser, who is based at The Rational Group’s corporate offices in the Isle of Man, said PokerStars “declined the offer because we had no plans to acquire another casino in the near term.”
Regulatory dispute stemmed from connections to Chinese gambling kingpin
MGM Resorts International, which gave up its ties to Atlantic City’s casino market nearly three years ago to settle a dispute with New Jersey gaming regulators, is seeking to regain a piece of the action.
The Las Vegas casino giant, which still owns 50 percent of Atlantic City’s market-leading Borgata, petitioned the New Jersey Casino Control Commission on Monday to reinstate the company’s gaming license in Atlantic City.
In a statement, MGM Resorts officials said the company “would welcome the opportunity to once again be an active, contributing member of the New Jersey gaming marketplace.”
MGM Resorts placed its Borgata ownership in trust in 2010 following settlement of a complaint filed by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
The agency said MGM Resorts’ joint-venture partner in Macau, Hong Kong businesswoman Pansy Ho, was unsuitable because international law enforcement alleged casinos controlled by her father, billionaire Stanley Ho, were influenced by Chinese organized-crime triads.
But what will New Jersey say?
Wall Street is sold on the parent company of online gaming giant PokerStars taking ownership of a downtrodden casino in Atlantic City.
The question that remains is whether or not New Jersey gaming regulators will sign off on the deal.
On Tuesday, Isle of Man-based The Rational Group, which owns PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, filed papers with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, seeking approval to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel from Resorts International Holdings.
There is now a 90-day period in which the Division of Gaming Enforcement will conduct an investigation and then report its findings to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. The casino commission will then have 30 days to hold hearings and ultimately make a determination on suitability.