The Rational Group, which is the online division of Amaya Inc is currently in the process of preparing to introduce the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker (FTP) brands in the New Jersey market.
The Canadian based Amaya Inc which acquired the PokerStars and FTP brands in a $4.9 billion acquisition in 2014 had fought long and hard to gain an online poker license in New Jersey and in the end managed to get licensing rights only after agreeing to a number of stipulations imposed by the legislators.
One of the requests made by Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) in New Jersey was Amaya Inc to stop all association with four senior executives before the 30th of Jan 2016. These four executives were suspected to have a tainted reputation and while the four executives were never specifically named, the Rational Group CEO Michael Hazel’s name was mentioned during the course of those discussions.
Amaya Inc recently announced that it would be parting ways with Michael Hazel and would be appointing Rafi Ashkenazi as the new CEO and one of his immediate tasks would be to prepare the PokerStars and FTP brands to prepare to launch into New Jersey. Hazel had been a part of the Rational Group since 2006 and has held a number of senior positions including CFO from 2012 and interim CEO since last year. There have been allegations against Hazel for his activities that violated the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which resulted in the infamous Black Friday.
Hazel’s replacement Ashkenazi is not a new face to the poker industry as he had previously worked with Playtech in the position of a COO and also joined the Rational Group as the COO in 2013 before moving to Amaya Inc and taking up the position of Senior Vice President of Strategy and directly reporting to Amaya Inc CEO David Baazov.
In a statement, Baazov said
Rafi [Ashkenazi] has been working very closely this year with our executive management team and returns to Rational Group with an even greater knowledge of our corporate strategy, vision and goals. Combining this knowledge with his operational expertise makes him an ideal leader for the Rational Group.
Ashkenazi will start in his new role from the 9th of November and will work with Hazel for a short period to ensure a smooth transition is followed. His key tasks will be to launch successfully in New Jersey and then to build and expand Amaya Inc’s online sports betting and online casino portfolio.