Full Tilt Poker/PokerStars Sold to Amaya Gaming Group (Almost)

Full Tilt Poker/PokerStars Sold to Amaya Gaming Group (Almost)Rumours that Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars were being sold to the Amaya Group were realised last night, when a statement was released confirming the deal.

Simply entitled Amaya Agrees to Acquire Rational Group, Owner of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, for $4.9 billion, the statement – jointly released by David Baazov, CEO of Amaya and Rational Group founder and CEO Mark Scheinberg – outlined the basis of the deal that would see the Amaya Gaming Group Inc. become the largest publicly-traded i-gaming company in the world.

The acquisition of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker has already been approved in principal by both company´s boards, and Amaya has already paid a $50 million deposit; but the sale of the Rational Enterprises to the Amaya Group is still subject to a vote by Amaya shareholder´s at a meeting that is likely to take place before the end of September.

An email giving further details of the proposed purchase of PokerStars by Amaya will be distributed to shareholders within the next few days, and Amaya announced it will be hosting an online conference call and presentation this morning (13th June) at 8:30am ET, to explain the rationale behind its agreement with the Rational Group – early risers can watch the proceedings on the newswire website.

Who´s Who in This Deal?

The Amaya Gaming Group Inc. is a fairly substantial Canadian i-gaming company which owns the Ongame Network and the online casino company Cryptologic. For several weeks rumours of a potential strategic acquisition had been circulating – forcing the price of the publicly-traded company´s shares up by almost 200% since the middle of April.

The Amaya Group´s proposed acquisition of Rational Enterprises is being transacted by the purchase of the Oldford Group Ltd – the parent company of Rational Enterprises which is wholly owned by the Scheinberg family. Last night´s press release said that Rational Enterprises´ existing management team will remain in place to ensure a seamless transition, but the deal will signal the end of any involvement by the Scheinbergs.

Consequently PokerStars players and those on Full Tilt Poker should not be affected by the change of owner, and Mark Scheinberg commented in the joint statement David Baazov has a strong vision for the future of the two online poker sites – implying that the Rational Group will be kept as a separate unit from the remainder of the Amaya Group´s operations and not integrated with the Ongame Network.

Are PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker On Their Way Back to the States?

The indications are that the Amaya Group intends to re-launch PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker in the States as soon as possible. Last night´s press released included the significant phrase that Amaya will expedite the entry of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker into regulated markets in which Amaya already holds a footprint. Amaya is already a licensed provider of i-gaming in New Jersey and PokerStars has an agreement in place to provide online poker for the Resorts Casino in Atlantic City.

PokerStars were prevented from entering the US market in New Jersey last December, when the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement suspended PokerStars´ licence application due to the company´s connection with Isai Scheinberg and Scheinberg´s refusal to return to the States to answer charges made against him in the Black Friday indictments. With that barrier now removed, it is likely that the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement will be happy to open discussion with the Amaya Group – especially as New Jersey has experienced a significant decline in gambling revenue recently.

The picture is a lot different in California, where the language of the bad actor clause within the recently submitted Internet Poker Bill excludes brands and software that provided online poker in the US market after December 2006. PokerStars has been trying to have the exclusion clause removed from the proposed legislation but, even with the backing of the Amaya Group, that is unlikely to happen when the majority of the Bill´s supporters are terrified of the impact that PokerStars will have in the new regulated market.