Rational Group, the owner of the world's leading online poker website PokerStars.com, has reportedly missed its deadline to purchase a struggling Atlantic City casino ahead of New Jersey's looming online gaming market.
The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported Tuesday that the deal between Rational Group and Colony Capital LLC, the investment firm that owns the Atlantic Club Casino, has expired.
Rational Group agreed to acquire the casino in January, pending on receiving approval for the casino license. Rational Group reportedly had until Friday, April 26, to obtain a temporary license from gaming regulators in order to maintain the agreement, but that date has come and gone.
Sources claim that New Jersey regulators may take as long as until August to make their decision regarding PokerStars' license.
When asked about the report, Rational Group Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser told PokerNews, "Given the confidential nature of our agreement, it would not be appropriate for me to comment."
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a strong supporter of PokerStars' emergence in New Jersey, told NJ.com that the deal may still be alive.
"I wouldn’t believe anything right now and just wait until the decision from the Division of Gaming Enforcement," Lesniak said Tuesday. "What I know is that the opponents of PokerStars are out there in full force trying to prevent them from operating in New Jersey."
Rational Group's blueprint to re-enter the U.S. has received opposition from the American Gaming Association, which filed paperwork with the Division of Gaming Enforcement in March to challenge the license. The AGA claims that PokerStars operated as a criminal enterprise in the United States and should not be permitted to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino and offer services in the U.S.
The acquisition of the Atlantic Club Casino would allow PokerStars back into the U.S. legally through New Jersey, which passed legislation this year and plans to have online gaming up and running by November. Eventually, it could also open the doors for PokerStars to enter other states as New Jersey forms compacts that would allow it to become the center for Internet gambling in the country.
PokerStars was forced to leave the U.S. in April 2011 when the Department of Justice charged the company and two rival online poker rooms with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling operations. However, Rational Group settled with the DOJ in August 2012 while admitting no wrongdoing, allowing the company to legally apply for a gaming license once the applicable laws were passed.
UPDATE (5/2 7:00 ET): Rational Group Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser issued the following statement to PokerNews:
In December 2012, The Rational Group (d/b/a PokerStars) entered into a purchase agreement for the acquisition of the Atlantic Club. Several days ago the Rational Group received a purported notice of termination of this agreement from the current owners of the Atlantic Club. It was the Rational Group's expectation and understanding, based on the ongoing dealings between the parties, that the closing date would be extended to allow the transaction to be completed. The Rational Group remains entirely committed to resolving this situation and to our investment in New Jersey.