If you look behind the news-speak of ‘additional shareholder value’ which Bwin.Party released to the press in line with their responsibilities as a listed company, then the message appears to be ‘we are for sale!’.
As is normal in this kind of situation, the shares (which are listed in London) went up 10% yesterday. Rumors started circulating that Amaya, which owns PokerStars and Full Tilt (and the Cryptologic casino software), and PlayTech (which runs the iPoker Network and produce extremely popular casino software) are both in the running.
I’m not too keen on Amaya buying Bwin.Party from the perspective of the poker players. With PokerStars having such a huge market share, and Full Tilt being a big brand too, this is tending towards a monopoly-like situation for me. These sites are run very professionally, so that side of things is not the risk. Instead it is the limiting of choices for players which raises a red flag.
PlayTech would seem a better fit. They have been slow to adapt to mobile poker sites, where Party are strong. The types of players on iPoker tend to be the recreational types who cross over from the sports betting brands – again a good fit with Party. With Titan Poker (an iPoker giant) pulling out of some Eastern European countries recently, there is also an alignment with Party – which pulled out of many ‘grey’ markets several years ago.
With only carefully worded statements and share price movements to go on, this story is still wide open. Let us hope that whatever the outcome, it is the players who benefit!