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The sale of bwin.party is going to happen, but it’s still unclear which company will land bwin.party’s varied assets.
888 seemingly had a deal in place to purchase bwin.party, but a late push by GVC (fueled by bwin.party stakeholder Jason Ader’s belief the deal with 888 wasn’t good enough) has thrown a monkey wrench in the process, delaying 888’s takeover of bwin.party.
Regardless of which company winds up with bwin.party’s assets, the Borgata, bwin.party’s igaming partner in New Jersey, will have a decision to make:
If 888 is able to seal the deal and finalize its purchase of bwin.party, then Borgata will have a fairly complicated decision to make.
The casino will need to decide if it wants to continue or transfer its current relationship with bwin.party to 888, or if it is better off simply cutting ties with both companies – assuming that is an option based on the deal initially signed with bwin.party.
Borgata’s decision will likely depend on what 888 plans to do with the partypoker/partycasino software.
Does it force a transition to the 888 software and AAPN network? Or does it continue to operate bwin.party as a separate company and allow Borgata and partypoker to run independently of 888 and WSOP.com in New Jersey?
If 888 winds up with bwin.party, the Borgata’s decision will be complex with a lot of moving parts.
If GVC is able to pull bwin.party out from under 888, the path forward is a bit more clear-cut.
Borgata would have the option to continue to run on the bwin.party software, or it could (again, if allowable) sever ties with bwin.party and the new owners (GVC) and become a free agent, with the most likely landing spot being PokerStars. Or perhaps, 888.
When it receives its license, PokerStars is expected to bring more players into the fold for online poker New Jersey, but it is also expected to cannibalize the current operators. The cannibalization is expected to be far more severe than can be offset by the influx of new players.
If Borgata lands at 888 or soldiers on with partypoker, PokerStars will take a big chunk out of its player base when it launches in New Jersey.
So, even though a combined front of Caesars, 888, and Borgata (particularly if New Jersey joins Nevada and Delaware and pools their players) might be the only way an online poker operator can compete with PokerStars, if Borgata jumps ship to PokerStars, and continues to block the state from entering into an interstate compact (888 and Caesars are the only beneficiaries of such a deal) they could make life very difficult for 888 and Caesars in New Jersey.
My colleague Robert DellaFave recently penned a column laying out the reasons why Borgata partnering with 888 and WSOP.com on the All American Poker Network would be best for the industry. However, what may be best for the industry as a whole may not be in the best interests of Borgata.
By partnering up with 888/Caesars/AAPN, Borgata would consolidate the market and eliminate most objections to New Jersey entering into interstate agreements with other states, as all of the current operators would benefit from such an arrangement.
However, by joining the AAPN, Borgata becomes just another skin on the network. With every online poker site (until PokerStars joins the fray) using the same software, the internal competition on the network would be palpable.
Instead of offering an alternative to 888’s software, Borgata would need to compete via its brand and promotions alone. And the promotions across the network would simply give each skin a chance to one up its competitors, perhaps to the point of unprofitability.
And of course, there is the 800 pound gorilla called PokerStars in the room. How does Borgata deal with PokerStars if it’s simply a skin on the AAPN along with WSOP.com and 888?