Amaya's shares were on a roll Thursday after the owner of the world's largest online poker brands said it will return to the United States as a result of a deal with authorities in New Jersey.
"We are very pleased to add New Jersey to the long list of regulated markets that have found PokerStars and Full Tilt suitable to offer real-money online gaming," said Amaya chairman and CEO David Baazov.
He said the approval, through a partnership with Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, was granted after a detailed review of the company's business, including sworn interviews from more than 70 individuals and visits to several international jurisdictions.
On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Amaya shares closed up more than 17 per cent at $28.50, the biggest daily increase in 15 months.
New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada are the only U.S. states to permit online gaming. But other states, including Pennsylvania, have looked at joining the list, offering a huge potential opportunity for Amaya.
PokerStars stopped providing real money poker games in April 2011 and was fined $547-million (U.S.) after the U.S. Justice Department seized the domain names of the company and a couple of competitors.
Two applications to enter New Jersey — considered one of the toughest jurisdictions to gain approval — were reportedly rejected because of legal issues facing the prior owners, who sold the business to Amaya in 2014 for $5-billion.
The state is the largest legal gaming market in the U.S. but generated relatively little in revenue from online poker last year. However, industry analysts say that while the financial returns from New Jersey are relatively small they could provide a springboard for the company as other states regulate online gaming.
Maher Yaghi of Desjardins Capital Markets said the credibility of the PokerStars and Full Tilt brand and Amaya's corporate structure "should improve investor perception about the company and provide something of a precedent for other states to consider having PokerStars and Full Tilt throughout the U.S."
Analyst Eyal Ofir of Dundee Capital Markets expects the entry of PokerStars will kick-start the poker market and help it grow, partly by helping to educate the 60 per cent of New Jersey adults who are reportedly unaware that Internet gambling is legal in the U.S.
The U.S. online gaming market is expected to be worth up to $2.7 billion a year by 2020 as more States legalize it.