Amaya buying PokerStars, Full Tilt

NEW YORK -- Amaya Gaming Group Inc. is buying the owner and operator of the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands in a $4.9 billion deal.

Canada's Amaya says the deal with privately held Oldford Group Ltd., the parent company of Rational Group Ltd., will make it the biggest publicly traded online operator of casino games.

PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker have more than 85 million registered players on desktop and mobile devices. Online poker services provided by PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will not be affected by the transaction.

"This is a transformative acquisition for Amaya, strengthening our core B2B operations with a consumer online powerhouse that creates a scalable global platform for growth," David Baazov, CEO of Amaya, said in a statement. "Mark Scheinberg pioneered the online poker industry, building a remarkable business and earning the trust of millions of poker players by delivering the industry's best game experiences, customer service and online security. ... Amaya will continue that tradition of excellence and accelerate growth into new markets and verticals."

Amaya believes the agreement will expedite the return of PokerStars, the biggest poker brand in the world, into the United States. PokerStars did not receive a license to operate in the regulated states due to "bad actor" clauses which targeted companies that offered online poker after the passing of the UIGEA in 2006. Amaya currently is licensed for online gaming operation in Nevada and New Jersey.

"This is encouraging news for millions of American players who have anxiously awaited the return of PokerStars to the U.S.," John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, said in a statement. "Amaya's acquisition should remove any perceived impediment for this popular brand to once again be available to players in regulated U.S. jurisdictions. This is a positive development for poker enthusiasts and the potential return of the PokerStars brand will grow our game."

The boards of Amaya and Oldford unanimously approved the deal. Amaya doesn't anticipate making any changes to its board related to the transaction.

The deal is expected to close by Sept. 30. It needs the approval of Amaya shareholders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.