Resorts Opens iGaming Lounge, Owner Says PokerStars License Near Approval
Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City entered the internet gaming age yesterday as it launched the real money site ResortsCasino.com, unveiled a new iGaming Lounge, and hinted at bigger things to come.
ResortsCasino.com, while of course new, will not particularly excite seasoned online gamers; it is still just a casino site offering games like slots and blackjack. That is great, as more competition in the online casino space is welcomed in New Jersey, but it is nothing groundbreaking. Resorts partnered with SNG Interactive to create the site.
Things get a little more interesting with the opening of a new iGaming Lounge at the Resorts Casino Hotel. It is a room filled with all sorts of ways to login to ResortsCasino.com, from tablets to laptops to touchscreen kiosks. There are sitting areas and tables where people can get together and play. In a press release, Resorts touted the Lounge as, “….a first-of-its-kind in the world digital iGaming room that is solely dedicated to online gaming and will serve as the prime location on the casino floor to indulge in online gaming fun.”
Overall, based on the pictures tweeted by Press of Atlantic City staff writer Reuben Kramer, the Lounge sort of looks like the cell phone display area of an electronics store with more seating and neon accents. The press release claims it’s a “first-of-its-kind,” and while that might be true as far as “permanent” facilities go, online poker rooms set these sorts of things up at the World Series of Poker a decade ago.
One commenter after the Press of Atlantic City article about the Lounge was confused as to why this was necessary (and yes, I know reading the comments on news sites is akin to self-immolation – I just scrolled down too far), asking, “I don’t understand why a person would go to a physcial [sic] casino to play at a virtual casino. ‘delivering world-class casino action in a fun, relaxed environment’ – Isn’t that what the real casino is for?”
Yes, that is what a real casino is for, but this iGaming Lounge is clearly intended as a promotional tool to attract people to Resorts’ online casino. Get them to enjoy playing for a while in the Lounge and chances are they will continue playing when they aren’t at the casino (provided they are within New Jersey’s state borders). Additionally, you can’t play table games for pennies and nickels in a live casino, but you sure can online – visitors might enjoy the chance to play for really cheap for a bit while still being at the casino.
The biggest news of the press conference leading up to the opening of the iGaming Lounge had nothing to do with the Lounge itself, though. According to another tweet by Reuben Kramer, Resorts owner Morris Bailey said that New Jersey gaming regulators are close to completing the approval process for PokerStars’ state gaming license and that Morris expects a positive result. Poker fans in New Jersey have been waiting and waiting and waiting for PokerStars to enter the market; it looks like that moment is drawing near.
PokerStars initially tried to make its way into New Jersey by purchasing the failing Atlantic Club casino in late 2012, and though a deal had been agreed upon, it eventually fell through.
Resorts partnered with PokerStars to offer online poker in New Jersey way back in the summer of 2013, but PokerStars’ licensing process has been slowed by failed deals, a hesitant Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) and politics. In December 2013, the DGE paused PokerStars’ licensing application, saying the decision was “.…based primarily on 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 State following the enactment of UIGEA.”
After Amaya Gaming purchased PokerStars last summer, that problem was solved, as the ownership and top executives that concerned the DGE were no longer part of the company. The DGE picked up PokerStars application once again and Amaya and Resorts filed for a transactional waiver in October 2014. Unfortunately, things were again delayed. This time, State Senator Ray Lesniak, a long-time champion of online poker in New Jersey, accused Governor Chris Christie of blocking PokerStars’ approval in order to curry favor with Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, who wants nothing more than to erase online gambling from the United States.
It finally looks like PokerStars will be back in the United States (even if only in one state) for the first time since April 2011. It will be interesting to see not only how the site itself does, but how it affects overall online poker traffic in New Jersey. The hope from many is not only will New Jersey players have a respected site on which to play poker, but that PokerStars will increase awareness and interest of online poker in the state enough to grow the entire market.
In the press conference, Bailey also said that should PokerStars receive approval for its license, Resorts would build a PokerStars-branded poker room.