Amaya Gaming License Renewed by New Jersey Regulators While CEO Insider Trading Allegations Linger

Posted on April 4th, 2016 by Jon Pineda
Amaya New Jersey David Baazov

Amaya CEO David Baazov says he’ll fight the allegations made against him by Quebec’s financial and securities regulatory body, and until he has his day in court, New Jersey will allow PokerStars to continue operations. (Image: italiapokerclub.com)

Amaya has endured a difficult two-week span, but the gaming conglomerate and parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker welcomed a bit of good news late last week. On Friday, New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) announced it was renewing Amaya’s gaming license for another six months.

“We’re extremely pleased with the initial launch of PokerStars in New Jersey and the positive working relationship that Amaya has with the DGE,” Amaya Interim CEO Rafi Ashkenazi said. “I’m very proud of our employees, including those we have hired in New Jersey, who have worked diligently to prepare for the launch of a robust, stable platform . . . We hope to continue our early positive momentum in the market as PokerStars NJ continues to roll out additional marketing and promotions.”

Ashkenazi has the “interim” CEO label because he assumed the position just last Monday after David Baazov announced an indefinite leave from the chief executive role. During his absence, Baazov plans to prepare his defense of insider trading allegations made against him by Quebec’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF).

Waving the Waver

After an exhaustive 14-month review, DGE boss David Rebuck announced on September 30, 2015, that his office was granting Amaya with a six-month “transactional waiver” to offer interactive gaming. Amaya scrambled to meet a series of conditions including severing ties with four individuals before launching PokerStars in New Jersey on March 21, 2016.

The platform quickly gained control of the iPoker market in New Jersey. Its launch was well-received overall by players, and its software, integrity, and security seemingly met the expectations of gaming regulators in the Garden State.

PokerScout data shows PokerStars New Jersey hovering at 180 players on its weekly average. The two other rooms in the state, WSOP/888 and Party Borgata, are claiming 30 and 80 fewer players respectively. 

With only nine days before its license was set to expire, the DGE renewed the Amaya license for another six-month term. It’s unknown if Rebuck will authorize Amaya on an annual basis come September 30, 2016, should the Canadian-based interactive gaming company continue to meet DGE requirements.

Back Off Baazov

When AMF authorities accused Baazov with five counts of securities charges on March 23, speculation immediately arose as to how the investigation might affect Amaya’s status in New Jersey. With Baazov taking a voluntary paid leave and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty a pillar of the law in Canada, Rebuck and the DGE is rightfully permitting the PokerStars brand to maintain operations as the case continues to unfold.

New Jersey authorizing PokerStars and Full Tilt to enter its regulated iGaming market was a calculated risk. The Scheinbergs and Full Tilt founding team members are no longer associated with the networks, but much concern persisted as the once “bad actors” returned to the United States.

The allegations made against Baazov are developments certainly undesired by New Jersey officials, but as was the case in their Amaya application review, the gaming division isn’t rushing to judgment. That’s good news for online poker players in the state, and the overall iGambling ecosystem.

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