GROWING PAINS


we assess the current trends that will shape the business landscape of the future


With the iGaming market entering something of a growth spurt in its adolescence, we assess the current trends that will shape the business landscape of the future. We start with convergence and, particularly, bwin.party’s joint venture with US land-based brands MGM and Boyd Gaming.

ONE OF THE offshoots of regulation, the defining driver of growth and change in the gaming sector, is the convergence of industry operators seeking to gain footholds in markets whereby they either lack a presence; or where partnering can become more competitive. This is very much the case with the iGaming industry, and it is apparent on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Europe, we have seen the first mega¬merger between two of the industry’s largest companies, bwin and PartyGaming, to form bwin.party Digital Entertainment. We have also seen M&A activity bring together the likes of Sportingbet and Centrebet, Playtech and Mobenga, IGT and Entraction, and Betsson and Betsafe. We have also seen Ladbrokes fail in attempts to bolster its online division through acquisitions of both 888 and more recently, Sportingbet.

However, it is bwin.party’s joint venture with MGM and Boyd Gaming in the United States that could signal the start of a new convergence of online expertise and land- based gaming brands. The abandoned deals between PokerStars and Wynn and Full Tilt and Fertitta predated this deal but fell apart following Black Friday. They do, however, highlight the appetite of the terrestrial industry to gain the expertise of the online sector.

For bwin.party, this is a key deal and on the surface, it appears to be a well structured proposition for a market that continues to confuse and frustrate with regards to its regulatory intent. The B2C element of this venture is built to cope with both federal and state-by-state regulatory models and will see the respective establishments of jointly owned companies ‘Federal NewCo’ and/or ‘State NewCo’ depending on the regulatory framework adopted in the US. The share ownership will see bwin.party owning 65 percent, MGM 25 percent, and Boyd Gaming ten percent.

The B2C aspect of the JV solely concerns online poker, which reflects the likely route to regulation in the US, with both state and federal legislative efforts mainly targeting poker because of the proportion of the game that is reliant on skill rather than chance.

Interestingly, as we’ve become accustomed to hearing from US land- based casinos, both MGM and Boyd have shown their hand with regards to their preferred method of regulation. Jim Murren, Chairman and CEO of MGM said, “MGM has long been supportive of federal legislation to strengthen UIGEA and provide the needed regulations and consumer protections for online poker. MGM is proud to have bwin.party as our partner as they have the assets and experience that, combined with our brands, can ensure a secure, fair and entertaining online poker experience.”
 
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