ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., March 12 (UPI) -- British gambling website Pokerstars has struck a deal to buy an Atlantic City, N.J., casino, perhaps a sign of things to come, industry experts said.
The move, a $30 million deal with the Atlantic Club, an 800-room hotel and casino, was prompted by a state law that legalizes online gambling in New Jersey but only for companies that are sponsored by a casino in Atlantic City, ABC News reported Tuesday.
That law, signed by Gov. Chris Christie in late February, is similar to laws in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Delaware.
It has prompted industry observers to look for signs of which part of the industry would flinch first. Would online companies begin buying brick and mortar casinos or would established resorts begin to buy or start their own online operations?
Joe Brennan, director of the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association said neither side wants to back down.
"Pokerstars is indicative of this: That online giants aren't going to sit back and let U.S. [casino] companies eat their lunch. They built their industry and I don't think they're going to passively sit back and allow it to be acquired," Brennan said.
At the same time, "brick and mortar casinos are not just going to drop off the face of the earth. People are not playing at the same stakes online as they are in casinos. It's much smaller stakes," Brennan said.
"The future of gaming will require a mix of online and offline expertise," said Pokerstars spokesman Eric Hollreiser in an email to ABC.
Pokerstars revealed its intention to buy the Atlantic Club in a regulator filing. It now must wait for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and the state's Casino Control Commission to give the deal the green light.
If the deal goes through, it would be the first time an online gaming site has put a stake in the ground by buying a brick and mortar establishment, ABC News said.