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New Jersey Online Poker: Resorts Casino Hotel Licensed, No Site Active

resorts-casino-logoResorts Casino Hotel Atlantic City has become the eighth New Jersey casino to be officially licensed to offer gambling, but the loss of its presumed software partner, PokerStars, means that the casino’s plans remain uncertain.

The license for RCH Atlantic City was approved on December 11th, just two days before Golden Nugget finally got the go-ahead to offer 24-hour play on its own sites.  The situation with RCH is different than the others, however, because it is the only land-based New Jersey casino that has actively sought interactive licensing which has failed to win approval from the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

Resorts Casino Hotel AC is currently operated by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which also owns and operates Connecticut’s giant Mohegan Sun casino complex.  The Mohegan nation entered into an agreement with the RCH casino’s owners, DGMB Casinos, LLC, in 2012 to take over active operations of the facility following the unexpected passing of one of the two primary investors behind DGMB, Dennis Gomes, in early 2012.  Gomes’ former partner, Morris Bailey, remains at the helm of DGMB, which is also the stated licensee on its interactive gaming applications for New Jersey.

The casino’s plans for interactive play were interrupted by the New Jersey DGE’s recent refusal to grant affiliated software licensing to PokerStars parent Rational Group.  Rational Group and PokerStars recently received a two-year suspension in its New Jersey application process, reportedly to continue to allow Stars founder Isai Scheinberg a further chance to address his ongoing legal difficulties with federal Department of Justice officials, including Scheinberg’s outstanding on Black Friday-related charges for bank fraud.

The suspension appears to have been a carefully considered alternative to slapping PokerStars with a “bad actor” tag and similar enforced sit-out from the New Jersey online market, though the effect is exactly the same.  What New Jersey’s decision created was wiggle room for Resorts Casino Hotel Atlantic City, whose own gambling licenses remain in good standing, and which was officially approved in the same timeframe.

Resorts Casino Hotel AC hasn’t tipped its hand in any way, with the company issuing no news releases at all concerning its own approved interactive licensing or the presumptive loss of its chosen software partner.  The combined non-announcements suggest that RCH AC and the Bailey-led DGMB is hedging its bets, perhaps negotiating on several fronts as once as the company reassesses its online plans.

Given that the casino, a struggling property which — much like the nearby and soon-to-close Atlantic Club — has been the subject of frequent closure reports — had likely looked to the New Jersey online-gambling era as a game changer, the delays and disruptions probably leave the casino with several unattractive choices:

  • Attempting to wait to see if Isai Scheinberg will reach some sort of personal settlement with the DOJ that New Jersey regulators will then find palatable.  Under that scenario, Scheinberg would likely have to step away from the privately-held Rational Group for real, instead of just in name only;
  • Dropping its deal with PokerStars, and securing services from an alternative software vendor.  The downside to this option is foregoing PokerStars’ considerab;e brand recognition and “favored brand” status with US online-poker consumers, which was likely the only way Resorts Casino Hotel AC could have overcome its delayed, late-to-market entry;
  • Abandoning the online-gambling prospects for the short- and medium-term future.  Unfortunately, this is a struggling casino property, and the market forces and increased pressure on Atlantic City from surrounding states do not offer a rosy picture for any AC casino that chooses to not expand online.

All that leaves Resorts Casino Hotel Atlantic City between two or three rocks and the proverbial hard place, with no easy path forward.  The New Jersey DGE understands the casino’s difficult position, which is partly the reason why the Stars suspension came down the way it did.

Nonetheless, today Resorts Casino Hotel Atlantic City is a fully licensed New Jersey business for online gambling, but one without any approved services to offer.  At some point the casino has to choose a path, but right now it’s not tipping its hand.

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