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PokerStars’ Bid to Buy Casino Could Signal Gambling Gold Rush

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A move by the online gaming giant PokerStars to buy an Atlantic City, N.J., casino could signal a gold rush for the gambling industry, according to industry watchers.

Online companies are expected to be scrambling for land and casinos in states like Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, which recently passed laws allowing online gambling if it is affiliated with in-state casinos.  Similar bills have also been introduced in Pennsylvania and Illinois.

PokerStars, part of the online gambling corporation Rational Group, based in the U.K., struck a deal earlier this year to buy the Atlantic Club, an 800-room hotel and casino on the Atlantic City boardwalk, according to paperwork filed with the state's division of gaming enforcement.

The move came after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law on Feb. 26 allowing online gambling for residents as long as the games were hosted by in-state casinos located in Atlantic City.

The company, which was previously indicted by the Department of Justice for offering online gambling to U.S. residents, wants to legally operate its website and the casino, according to its owners.  They reportedly paid about $30 million for the casino.

"In a nutshell, the future of gaming will require a mix of online and offline expertise," Eric Hollreiser, spokesman for PokerStars, told ABC News in an email.  "We are the world's largest online poker company and one of the largest producers of live poker tournaments in the world, which we produce in many of the world's best known casinos."

Hollreiser said that the proposed business model would help drive online gamers into casinos for live tournaments, and remind casino-goers to log on and game at home until their next visit.

"We drive traffic from our online tournaments to our major casino partners around the world.  This drives a poker tourism business in cities such as London, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, (and) Rio," he said.  "The traffic runs both ways as we introduce new audiences to poker in these live tournaments."

PokerStars is awaiting approval from the Division of Gaming Enforcement and the state's Casino Control Commission.  If it goes through, it could represent the first time a gaming website has transformed into owning and operating a hotel and casino.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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