The parent company of the PokerStars gambling website, thwarted thus far in its efforts to buy one Atlantic City casino, on Wednesday announced a deal in which it will partner with another one to offer Internet gambling in the state once it becomes legal later this year.
The Rational Group is joining with Resorts Casino Hotel as its online gambling partner, pending approval from state casino regulators.
But Wednesday's announcement raised another big question: whether PokerStars plans to continue its court fight to try to buy The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, in which it thus far has been rebuffed. An appeals court ruled Monday The Atlantic Club can seek a new buyer even as the court fight continues.
The Rational Group CEO Mark Scheinberg said the company is excited about investing in New Jersey.
"Resorts is a fantastic partner for us and we are looking forward to launch PokerStars in the U.S. in association with the other quality brands Resorts has brought to Atlantic City,'' he said in a statement.
But his statement made no mention of its plans regarding The Atlantic Club, and a spokesman did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday. Rational spent $11 million of the purchase price it negotiated with The Atlantic Club on payments to keep the casino afloat during the slow winter months.
But the casino, citing language in the contract enabling it to cancel if Rational had not received preliminary ownership approval from state gambling regulators by a certain date, pulled the plug on the deal and said it would look for other buyers. Rational went to court to try to preserve the deal but has had no success. Monday's ruling was the latest to go against it but did not end the litigation over the deal.
The deal would add a powerful new brand to a once-struggling casino that has been stockpiling them of late.
Resorts signed a deal last year to have the gambling arm of the Mohegan Indian tribe of Connecticut manage the day-to-day affairs of the casino and linked player databases and rewards programs with Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It also opened the $35 million Margaritaville entertainment and gambling complex in May, bringing the Jimmy Buffett-themed attraction to the Boardwalk and onto its casino floor.
"This is another blue chip partner for Resorts to complete a wonderful series of brands _ Mohegan Sun, Margaritaville and now PokerStars,'' Resorts owner Morris Bailey said.
The alliance still must be approved by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. The division's director, David Rebuck, said PokerStars has not advised the division of its intention regarding The Atlantic Club.
Resorts became the latest Atlantic City casino to announce its online partner. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has lined up Bwin.party, based in Gibraltar. The four Atlantic City casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment _ Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, Bally's Atlantic City and The Showboat Casino Hotel _ are teaming with 888 Holdings. And the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort partnered this week with Las Vegas-based Ultimate Gaming.