What Will Happen If Borgata And bwin.party Get A NJ Divorce?

If The “Party” Is Over For Borgata, What Does It Mean For NJ Online Poker?

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A shakeup could be afoot in the New Jersey online gaming market. A shakeup, that if it occurs, would be the largest the industry has experienced to date.

As was first reported by eGR Magazine, Borgata is weighing its options and considering severing its current relationship with bwin.party in order to team up with a new online gaming partner in New Jersey.

While this news is not altogether unexpected – I forecasted the relationship between Borgata and bwin.party could be in jeopardy back in December – it’s unclear what is driving Borgata’s decision to entertain the idea of taking on a new online gaming partner at this time.

Changes at bwin.party

At the top of the motives list is the recently completed acquisition of bwin.party by GVC Holdings.

Even though GVC has filed for an online gaming license in New Jersey, and according to a bwin.party spokesperson quoted by eGR, the company is in discussions with Borgata and “very keen to carry on” the partnership, the acquisition is likely concerning from the Borgata’s point of view. The million dollar question is if GVC’s plans for bwin.party and the U.S. online gambling market are the same as the previous ownership, and if they line up with Borgata’s own vision.

A similar acquisition, the Scientific Games takeover of Bally Technologies in 2014, led to Golden Nugget switching to the NYX platform in late 2015, as Golden Nugget felt Scientific Games’ priorities lay outside of the U.S. real money online gambling markets.

According to Thomas Winter, the Head of Online Gaming at Golden Nugget, the break with Scientific Games was mutual, but he did say, “On our end, we wanted a fully committed partner to keep improving their platform and our players’ experience. So we both figured out it was best to change.”

Borgata could harbor similar concerns over GVC’s U.S. intentions.

That said, there are several other nonexclusive reasons why Borgata could be shopping around.

bwin.party failed to meet expectations

While not as hyped as the impending return of PokerStars to the United States, the return of Party Poker (now transcribed as partypoker) created a certain level of buzz in the industry. Needless to say, the product that returned has failed to live up to even the most modest of expectations.

Borgata is the clear number one in the New Jersey online gambling market, but its place at the top is far from ironclad. Be it online poker or online casino, Borgata has close competitors, which would have been somewhat unexpected in the months following the launch of the industry in November of 2013.

If Borgata is simply unsatisfied with the partypoker and partycasino platforms, one of the more likely potential partners for Borgata would be PokerStars.

The two companies would create a formidable team, as PokerStars is considered best in class in the online gaming sphere while Borgata is best in class among New Jersey’s land-based casinos. Essentially, the pairing of PokerStars and Borgata would perhaps allow Borgata to realize its early expectations, and put some distance between its online gaming products and those of its competitors.

A firewall against PokerStars

Yet another reason Borgata may be looking to switch gaming partners is to partner with an existing provider in New Jersey (and perhaps beyond) in order to create a strong firewall against PokerStars.

In this scenario, the most likely partner would be 888.

If Borgata switches to 888, it could not only join the in-state online poker network currently used by 888 and WSOP.com, but it would allow them, as a combined force, to make a serious push for New Jersey to team up with Delaware and Nevada, which also happen to be powered by 888 platforms.

If this were all to come to pass, it would create a robust online poker network and Borgata/Caesars/888 could pull from populations PokerStars wouldn’t have access to. It would effectively be PokerStars against the world in New Jersey.

Yet another possibility

Another possibility would be for Borgata to simply cede online poker to PokerStars and Caesars (888), and focus on online casino by partnering with a company like NYX.

NYX is a proven platform in the market (in addition to Golden Nugget, it powers Resorts’ online casino platforms) and would make a solid partner.

There is a second potential path if Borgata were to partner with NYX for online casino only, as it would leave the door open for Borgata to partner with someone else – 888 – for online poker. Under this scenario Borgata would have the best of both worlds, as it would not only create an online poker firewall against PokerStars, but it would land one of the top online casino platforms to boot.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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