PokerStars kicks off its soft launch in New Jersey today (March 16), marking the end of the online poker giant’s exile from the US. It’s been four years and 11 months since the site beat a hasty retreat from America, when its founders were pursued by the Department of Justice.
Now, one $731 million settlement with the DOJ later, plus a $4.9 billion change of ownership, and a 14-month licensing investigation by the DGE, PokerStars is back.
Speaking at an earnings call on Monday, David Baazov, CEO of PokerStars’ parent Amaya, called the company’s entrance into the New Jersey regulated market “an eagerly awaited milestone.”
“While New Jersey remains a small segregated market, we consider it a significant milestone for PokerStars and for online gaming in the United States and it delivers one of the promises made by us when we acquired the brand in August of 2014,” he said.
Soft Launch is Legal Requirement
The soft launch phase this week is actually a regulatory perquisite that will allow the DGE to monitor the software for full compliance and ensure that geolocation is working.
PokerStarsnj.com, which has partnered with Resorts Casino Hotel, goes live from 4pm ET today and will run until midnight, with the same schedule planned for tomorrow. Then on Friday, the site will be live from 8am to midnight, and will operate a full 24 hours over the weekend. During the soft launch phase, the site will be capped at 500 players.
If all goes well, PokerStarsnj.com expects to launch officially on Monday, March 21, with a $25,000 “We’re in New Jersey” freeroll planned for March 27 for customers who sign up in the first week.
What to Expect
It’s anticipated that PokerStars will quickly gain traction in New Jersey, and could even topple longtime market-leader Party-Borgata from its perch within months. It’s hoped that the site will reinvigorate the online poker vertical in the state with its larger marketing reach and through the introduction of new “recreational-friendly” features to the regulated market, such as jackpot sit & gos.
The presence of the brand alone may be enough to tempt players who play on unregulated sites to change their ways, but PokerStars is also just as likely to attract most of its licensed competitors’ customers, quickly establishing the monopoly that it has elsewhere.
“Through targeted investments in marketing and customer acquisition initiatives, primarily during peak seasons beginning in 2016, we intend for PokerStars to become one of the leading online gaming sites in the New Jersey regulated market,” said Baazov on Monday.