GVC Cleared For NJ's Online Gambling Market

GVC Wins New Jersey Online Gambling License Approval; Now What?

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When GVC Holdings acquired bwin.party in February, some questioned whether it would still be suitable for licensure in the regulated New Jersey online gambling market.

That question has been answered with a “yes,” as GVC announced on Monday that it had been approved for continued operation in NJ, in its partnership with Borgata and PartyPoker.

GVC and NJ, still together

GVC issued a press release with the news, announcing its ability to continue operating in New Jersey, as a fully licensed operator.

There was no accompanying announcement from the NJ Department of Gaming Enforcement, but GVC said it was all systems go. From the release:

As part of its preliminary investigation, DGE examined GVC’s business operations and concluded, “GVC and its individual qualifiers possess the requisite good character, honesty, and integrity should it file for a transactional waiver.” DGE determined that the New Jersey licenses held by bwin.party shall remain valid under GVC’s ownership and a transactional waiver is not needed in connection with existing New Jersey contracts. Additionally, DGE ordered the termination of the Monitoring Agreement under which bwin.party had been operating since the acquisition by GVC.

NJ OK’s operation in gray markets?

The news comes after PartyPoker reentered 21 gray markets after the GVC acquisition.

Fuel was added to the fire that GVC may not stay in New Jersey when the NJDGE issued a Director’s Advisory Bulletin saying that it would take into account an operator’s operations in other markets when determining suitability for licensure.

The GVC approval by the NJDGE is proof that operation in gray markets is not a non-starter for keeping the doors open in NJ. Entrance or continued operation in a truly “black” market would be a problem, however.

The dynamic has changed for Borgata and GVC

In the wake of GVC taking over bwin.party, there have been changes for its land-based gaming partner, Borgata.

The Atlantic City property will be fully owned by MGM Resorts after it bought out the 50 percent share owned by Boyd Gaming. The deal is expected to close in Q3 of this year. That means MGM will call the shots by itself on its online gambling platform, and one thing is clear: MGM is bullish on regulated online gambling.

Reports over the winter indicated that Borgata was considering cutting ties with GVC. Then in May, Borgata entered into a relationship with Game Account Network to offer real-money gaming in New Jersey.

That may have simply been a precautionary stopgap measure, if GVC had not won regulatory approval in the state.

What’s next for GVC, PartyPoker and Borgata?

Will things continue ahead like they were before, or are there still changes afoot for online gambling and poker for the parties involved?

The licensure issue takes one variable out of the equation, and could very well mean the status quo continues. In that scenario, all the chatter regarding Borgata and GVC was just in case the latter fell short of NJ approval.

Borgata continues to lead the way for online casino revenue in New Jersey, but the poker product is far from an unmitigated success. With the entrance of PokerStars into the market, Borgata / PartyPoker saw revenue decrease more than 30 percent year-over-year in April.

Between that and the full acquisition of Borgata by MGM, does that mean there is still a chance for a shakeup in the NJ online poker market? Time will tell.

Image credit: Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.
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