To the delight of the online poker community, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement approved PokerStars for a transactional waiver on September 30, 2015.
However, the online poker community’s desire to sit down at computers and play at the friendly confines of PokerStars’ virtual tables will have to wait a few months, with January of 2016 looking like a likely timeframe for PokerStars to return to New Jersey.
There are a breadth of reasons PokerStars’ launch will take a few months from license to launch, and there have been several tidbits of information that point to sometime this winter as the most probable date.
Unclaimed account balances
Last week PokerStars began contacting former New Jersey players who still had unclaimed, pre-Black Friday account balances with the site. The date seems to indicate PokerStars New Jersey won’t possibly launch before January of 2016; according to the emails sent to players, “If contact is not renewed by December 28 2015, we are required by law to transfer these funds to the custody of the State of New Jersey.”
This remittance (PokerStars was required to put $400,000 into a trust account with the express purpose of repaying these outstanding balances) was one of the stipulations PokerStars had to agree to in order to receive a transactional waiver from the DGE.
With players given until December 28 to claim these funds (which amount to pennies in some instances) it seems unlikely PokerStars would launch before this process was complete, and the remaining funds handed over to the state. Another email posted at PocketFives purported to say that PokerStars would actually launch on Jan. 1, but that appears to have been a hoax:
So, that appears to make Jan. 1 unlikely, although early January is still on the table.
PokerStars must cut ties with four employees
Another stipulation that seems to indicate a 2016 launch is the fact that PokerStars had to agree to cutting ties with four employees. The company must remove these four unnamed individuals, who have, according to the DGE, “failed to establish the requisite good character, honesty and integrity,” on or before January 31, 2016.
I expect PokerStars will sever ties with these employees as soon as possible, and almost certainly before January 1, or at the very least, have definitive proof it can bring to the DGE that these individuals will leave the company by January 31, 2016.
Software testing still needs to be done
The New Jersey DGE may have approved PokerStars for a transactional waiver after a lengthy and invasive two-year vetting process, but it still needs to test the company’s software in its lab. This is a time-intensive process that can, by itself, last weeks or months according to operators I spoke with that have already been through the process.
A fresh start in 2016
January is one of the busiest online poker months of the year, which makes it a good time to launch a long-awaited online poker site. Also, by putting off its launch until January of 2016, Amaya can push the costs that will accompany the launch onto the 2016 ledger sheet, giving the company the entire year to recoup these expenses.
This possible reason was first brought up (to my knowledge) by the Global Poker Index’s Alex Dreyfus:
I believe Amaya/Pokerstars will launch in Q1 2016, no need to add cost on Y15. Need a strong strategy to develop a market without killing it
— Alexandre Dreyfus (@alex_dreyfus) October 1, 2015
Predictions about what PokerStars will do in New Jersey is an inexact science to say the least, but the smart money would be on the company launching its online poker site some time before winter’s end, and possibly in January.