The 34 year old CEO of the Montreal-based Amaya Gaming Group has been making bold and fruitful acquisitions in the risky business of online poker. Amaya is the David who bought the Goliath Rational Group, which owns Poker Stars and Full Tilt Brands for $4.9 billion, borrowing $3 billion for the deal.
What makes this seem especially chancy is that Poker Stars can’t operate in the United States because of online gambling laws passed in 2006. In spite of bans in certain countries, online gambling is growing at a staggering pace worldwide, and revenues have quadrupled in the last decade.
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There is a chance the U.S. market will open up with new regulations. Full Tilt and Poker Stars together have 66% market share in the international market. Poker Stars was started by Isai Scheinberg, who was born in Romania, educated in Russia and emigrated to Israel where he fought in the Yom Kippur War. Scheinberg moved to Canada, won international poker tournaments, and was a pioneer in the area of online poker.