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PokerStars' New U.S. Life Might Still Have Wynn Tie

A Closer Look At Possible Atlantic City Casino Buy

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Credit: Facebook

In a sense, PokerStars legally operating in the U.S. might still have a connection to Steve Wynn.

In early 2011, the firm had a tentative partnership with Wynn Resorts in conjunction with lobbying Nevada to legalize web poker. After a federal indictment against PokerStars in April 2011 and a $731 million settlement in July 2012, the web company reportedly is in talks to buy an Atlantic City casino that Wynn developed more than three decades ago.

Wynn doesn’t have a stake in the property these days — or a deal with PokerStars anymore.

The world’s most-played poker site could buy the Atlantic Club Hotel-Casino for less than $50 million. The property, currently under the ownership of global real-estate investment firm Colony Capital, was worth more than $500 million a handful of years ago.

PokerStars’ potential move would be designed to give it a place for re-entry into a regulated American market. The trend seems to indicate that states will give preference to owners of brick-and-mortar properties, as synergy between the web and the real world has been echoed nationwide by gambling industry advocates.

Some in New Jersey want to legalize online gambling at the state level in order to get out in front of potential federal legalization or a rush of state compacts. Nevada approved web gaming in June 2011 and is eager to expand its reach. At least one New Jersey lawmaker wants to keep pace with the Silver State in creating a technology hub for the industry.

Atlantic Club Casino, originally branded the Golden Nugget in the 1980s and most recently named Atlantic City Hilton, has actually been on the market since 2011. The casino, the smallest in the city in terms of gaming space, has been on a steep revenue decline since 2006.

But so has Atlantic City as a whole.

According to reporting from Press of Atlantic City, Hilton Hotels & Resorts cut its last tie to the casino because the firm wanted to “protect [its] name and identity.” Had the property become an embarrassment for the hospitality giant? Colony Capital went on to officially rename the property early this year, but is still looking at selling the place.

With the new name came a push to make the joint a “locals casino.” Atlantic Club’s motto is “[t]he casino for the rest of us.” However, revenues have continued to plummet.

The $50 million price tag for PokerStars might look delicious, but the casino reportedly would come with all of its existing debts and other financial obligations.

However, everything is contingent on PokerStars snagging a license under a New Jersey intrastate online poker system. Both aren’t guarantees, especially since it’s unclear if Gov. Chris Christie would sign the current proposal if it made it to his desk. He vetoed a similar plan last year, but the recent changes might be able to appease him.

Although PokerStars failed in Nevada, the size and experience of the Isle of Man-based company might be enough to change things in New Jersey. With its settlement with the feds, PokerStars acquired former rival Full Tilt Poker. Those two poker sites dominate the worldwide online poker traffic numbers, according to data from PokerScout.

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus