Stunning reports have surfaced in recent days that Caesar’s allegedly offered to sell their coveted World Series of Poker (WSOP) and Rio Hotel properties to PokerStars, the controversial online poker site has claimed.
This news comes on the heels of the American Gaming Association (AGA), based out of Nevada, submitting a letter to New Jersey officials urging them not to allow a proposed sale of Atlantic City’s Atlantic Club Hotel and Casino to PokerStars, as reported on PMA in recent days.
The skirmish in New Jersey is the latest escalation between PokerStars and the U.S. casino industry, which for years grew frustrated that PokerStars was operating a U.S. facing web site and claiming that U.S. law did not prohibit online poker. With states rushing to regulate online poker, these rivals are now starting to face each other directly and out in the open.
The AGA letter, sent to the Casino Control Commission, questioned PokerStars’ integrity following events that transpired on Black Friday April 15, 2011. Two officials from the company were indicted and PokerStars later settled with the US Government, agreeing to forfeit USD $547 million.
In the 26-page brief, the lobby group said PokerStars “was operated as a criminal enterprise for many years,” and that the company “cannot demonstrate the good character, integrity, and honesty required by New Jersey law.”
“AGA opposes the PokerStars Petition because the integrity of the gaming industry would be gravely compromised,” the AGA brief stated.
“Any action allowing PokerStars to be licensed would send a damaging message to the gaming industry, and to the world beyond gaming, that companies that engage in chronic law breaking are welcome in the licensed gaming business.”
Caesars allegedly suggested to PokerStars that acquiring a Las Vegas casino would help the company obtain an online poker license in Nevada, PokerStars’ Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser told Forbes.
“Caesars Entertainment approached PokerStars and offered to sell us certain assets, such as the Rio Casino in Las Vegas. Caesars suggested that this acquisition would give us a better relationship with Caesars and would help PokerStars gain a license in Nevada,” Hollreiser said.
“PokerStars declined the offer because we had no plans to acquire another casino in the near term.”
Gaming sources said the claims were “bizarre, and far-fetched”. The World Series of Poker is considered one of Caesars Entertainment’s most lucrative brands, with tournaments worldwide. The company plans to use the World Series of Poker in conjunction with legal online gaming activities and Nevada and New Jersey.
And for its part, PokerStars said in a statement that its suitability for a gaming license is a matter for expert regulators to determine, not self-interested partisans picking a public fight.
• Additional reporting, Nathan Vardi, Forbes.com