ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (AP) — The owner of the world's largest online poker website wants to add a brick-and-mortar casino to its portfolio.
Rational Group US Holdings, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, is asking New Jersey casino regulators for permission to buy the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel for an undisclosed amount. If approved, the deal would mark the first purchase of an Atlantic City casino by an Internet gambling company.
The company, based in Isle of Man, promises to invest in the Atlantic City casino to help the struggling seaside gambling resort.
"Rational US is a willing and enthusiastic prospective purchaser, and it intends to improve the financial viability of the property, and therefore the offerings available in Atlantic City," the firm wrote in its application to New Jersey casino regulators. "The purchase will improve the overall economic and competitive conditions of Atlantic City and the state of New Jersey, as the current owner of the company has, for a considerable period of time, been marketing the property for sale."
The company's application to New Jersey regulators was first reported by The Press of Atlantic City. A purchase agreement was reached Dec. 21.
In a joint statement, Michael Frawley, the casino's chief operating officer, and Eric Hollreiser, a spokesman for Rational, confirmed the proposed sale.
"The acquisition of The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel will secure up to 2,000 jobs and maintain the economic benefits the casino brings to New Jersey," their statement read. "During this interim period, the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel will operate as normal under current management, which will be retained following completion of the acquisition."
Rational would buy the casino from Resorts International Holdings, an affiliate of Los Angeles-based hedge fund Colony Capital LLC. Colony has owned the casino since 2005 as it has struggled badly in Atlantic City's cutthroat market, which is suffering from increased competition from casinos in neighboring states.
The Atlantic Club ranks 10th out of Atlantic City's 12 casinos in terms of gambling revenue. It's take from gamblers declined by 11 percent last year, to $127.2 million. It posted a $13.6 million gross operating loss through the first nine months of last year.
The proposed deal will be scrutinized closely. State lawmakers have passed a bill that would authorize Internet gambling, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie hasn't acted on it.
Last year, PokerStars paid $547 million to settle money laundering charges from a U.S. government crackdown on illegal Internet gambling. It admitted no wrongdoing and is allowed to operate in states where online gambling is legal.
Rational is seeking from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement interim casino authorization, which is preliminary approval to move forward with the purchase. It would then need approval from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to complete the purchase.
On its website, Rational describes PokerStars as the world's largest online poker site, with more than 50 million registered members. Since December 2001, the company says, more than 85 billion hands have been played on its site.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
Step #1: Get The Right Guys
Selecting the right guys for poker night is so crucial to the success of the evening, it's practically a science. A lot of thought should go into analyzing the cohesive chemistry of a group as well as the individual personalities of players. If Don works in environmental law and Ricky owns an oilrig, it's probably not a good combo. Similarly, if that guy in accounting you thought about inviting loses his cool every time the copier gets jammed, odds are he's not a fun poker player to be around when he's down 50 bucks, no matter how good his Christopher Walken impression is.
Step #2: Set A Date
Knowing upfront that you can't accomodate everybody, pick a date to hold your poker night that doesn't conflict with players' schedules and doesn't fall on a Monday during football season. Basic rules for setting the date: no full moons (superstitions can really mess with your game), no championship games (you can check NBA, NFL and MLB season schedules online to make sure there's no interference), shoot for your kids' final exam period (this seems to be the time when a father's presence at home is least noticed).
Step #3: Get The Gear
The wrong gear can destroy a poker night, and worse, brand you a terrible poker host, so pay attention to the bare necessities. Two decks are a must for any poker game; ferocity and thumb sweat pick up in a big way after the first few hands, so after 45 minutes it's safe to say that first deck is on borrowed time anyway. Make sure you've selected a proper table to play on (circular is encouraged) and make sure it's devoid of any floral patterns or imagery of the like -- this is Vegas, remember. The next thing you'll need is poker-chips. You can play with Lego pieces and Splenda packets, but their inauthenticity will be the first area of verbal attack when people start drinking too much and you're on a winning streak.
Step #4: Food & Drinks
The right snack choices at a poker game say a lot about your character. Nuts say you're a traditional guy. Chips say you're not afraid to be a conformist. Prosciutto says you've never done this before. Best to be safe and stick with the one-syllable classics. As for drinks, poker night is about cutting lose as much as it's about making money, so beer and cocktails should be available (and, of course, soda for the designated drivers).
Step #5: No Wives
This is one of the trickier rules of poker, but one that must be respected. No wives. Sorry ladies, but boy's night means boy's night. Some of the most vulnerable, raw and self-reflecting statements men ever make are uttered after a few rounds of cards, and you can't have the presence of someone's wife in the next room censoring poker-talk. Here's a tip: Mamma Mia tours the South and Midwest this December; take the liberty of getting her tickets! (Go back to step #2 and coordinate a date when you can get the wife out of the house doing her own thing).
Step #6: Running The Game
When it comes to finally sitting down to play, some rules of the game are clearer than others: set a reasonable cash limit; establish certain laws of the land (too many good poker nights have been ruined by arguments over whether or not a royal flush beats a straight flush); make sure everyone at the table gets a chance to deal and choose the game they want to play. But more important than these oft-repeated rules is the neglected task of determining when the game will end prior to starting. No matter how much vetting is done in step #1 when it comes to picking the boys for poker night, one man invariably makes his mark come playing time as the guy that could keep at it for days. A reasonable end time (e.g. midnight) will prevent you from having to explain to your spouse why Ned is still at the kitchen table playing cards by himself two days after poker night.
Step #7: Bathroom Breaks
As host, make it clear before the game starts that after every third or fourth hand the group will take a collective bathroom break. This prevents unnecessary interruptions throughout the game and prevents nosy players from looking at the bathroom visitor's hand while they're gone. To really drive this later point home, elect two guys to stand guard over the table while the others go to the bathroom, then appoint a third guy to watch over the first two. The original guards watch each other's every move and the third guy watches to make sure the first two don't conspire to cheat together. This full-proof precaution, called the 'Pyongyang Border Solution,' proves the host's commitment to reasonable, relaxed and fair play.
Step #8: Make Etiquette A Priority
As heated as poker sometimes gets, adherence to the proper rules of poker etiquette will prevent players from breaking out into physical brawls or verbal assaults. Have players agree to keep their cool before the first hand is dealt. No trash talk. Leave all comments concerning players' wives, mothers and hybrid cars at the door. The host should set the standard here, defusing altercations and demonstrating the proper way to take losing 'like a man.' Similarly, if you as the host find yourself on a winning streak, play until you start losing again. It's not an economic choice, but that's not the point; after all, poker night isn't about money, it's about honor.
Step #9: Music Options
Music is too often ignored in conversations about poker night, but its role is absolutely essential. A broad selection of music choices means that no matter what direction the game may go, be it carefree, dramatic or romantic, the proper soundtrack is available. More importantly, however, music serves as the point of focus for players that have been eliminated, and in that capacity can serve as the object of a player's scorn, frustration or need to feel validated. The more time losers spend deciding what album to play, the more time winners spend playing poker without interruption. Best to stick with iPod speakers if you can.
Step #10: The Next Day Check-In
Now that your poker night was pulled off successfully without incident, it's time for the next day check-in. Some words and looks might have been exchanged in the heat of things that weren't meant, so a call to all the players the day after poker night is necessary to make sure that no one is bitter, resentful or, most importantly, turned off from doing it again in the future -- it's exactly like dating. Odds are, if the night was in fact a success, the next day check-in will give your guests the chance to sing your praises more than anything else. Who can't appreciate that?