Amaya, 888, bwin and Betfair battle it out in NJ

12th November 2013 10:08 am GMT
It is worth watching the every move of those companies that were handed a New Jersey transactional waiver on Friday. While the transactional waiver gives Atlantic City’s casinos the green light to launch interactive gaming, many of their suppliers will still have some work to do to get their houses into a satisfactory regulatory shape.Take Amaya, for example. To all intents and purposes, the Canadian supplier has played a blinder in New Jersey. It is powering CaesarsCasino.com while Golden Nugget and BetfairCasino.com (Trump Plaza’s brand) will use Ongame’s poker and the Borgata will use its casino games. The web of deals that got Amaya to here is fascinating. Firstly, the deals to buy everyone’s unwanted assets (Ongame, Chartwell and CryptoLogic) look to be paying off. The paltry $15m that Amaya paid bwin.party for Ongame looks like genius. Not only did they get a serviceable poker network, CEO David Baazov then had the chutzpah to return to the seller and demand damages to the tune of $5.1m. He is now going head-to-head with bwin.party in New Jersey. BorgataPoker.com, BorgataCasino.com and PartyPoker.com will be up against Ongame’s poker network clients Golden Nugget and BetfairCasino.com. Some folks are asking whether bwin.party would have been better off just closing Ongame down rather than selling it. However, it must be presumed that it was the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement that has forced Amaya to sell its B2C arm WagerLogic due to its grey/black markets exposure. The sale has been presented as a done deal but it is understood to be anything but. The buyers, ex-CryptoLogic execs, need to raise the cash. It’s a lot of cash too - $66m. Considering the fact Baazov bought Crypto for just $29.48m, you have to admire the CEO’s deal-doing prowess. And his massive cojones. According to a bwin.party spokesperson, the deal to use Amaya’s games has nothing to do with their dispute about the Ongame transaction, which he has no comment on. Amaya will also be supplying its casino platform to CaesarsCasino.com, the website of Caesars Atlantic City, which chose to hedge its bets rather than throwing its lot in with 888. 888 signed a deal with Caesars to use the license belonging to another of its four Atlantic City properties, Bally’s Park Place. Caesars has only activated two licences and, curiously, remains one of two casinos to have applied and not been issued with an internet gaming permit yet. The other is Resorts - that’s PokerStars’ partner.Caesars still have some work to do on its application apparently. However, its deals with Amaya and 888 have been approved for the time being. Each casino can launch as many as five brands on each licence. 888 will launch its own brand (through its All American Poker Network joint venture), Caesars’ WSOP and a site for Steve Wynn. It is understood to have two more brands in the pipeline. Caesars might be hoping 888 will not cut another deal with a powerful out of town rival a la Wynn. If Amaya’s chutzpah is to be admired then 888 have shown some moves too. After launching Caesars WSOP in Nevada, they have now launched the first legal online casino games site in the US in collaboration with Scientific Games in Delaware. The Delaware site will give you an idea of what to expect from 888’s sites elsewhere, although they have not managed to get games up yet from Williams Interactive or IGT, which are due soon. While 888 will have some technical modifications to adapt to local regulations - and may have to wait for Caesars’ permit to come through - you would expect 888 to be ready for the November 26th launch date given its experience elsewhere. For others it is going to be a squeeze. There is going to be a lot of work to do with integrating games from different suppliers. GameAccount Network will be busy. It has chosen to go public on the London Stock Exchange in tandem with its launch of Betfair’s NJ casino. IGT, which did not figure in Friday’s announcement as it already has a CSIE licence, is going great guns selling its games into the market. One of its biggest advantages - other than its great games - is its patent portfolio. Operators know they can use IGT’s games without infringing anyone’s patents. Lastly, the DGE also issued a list of eight service providers, which have been passed fit after a preliminary investigation, which I understand to be an investigation of all that is in the public domain. So investigations of their nearest and dearest will follow but they haven’t done anything that naughty in public. So Jim Ryan’s new Californian outfit Pala Interactive have expressed an interest in New Jersey. As have social gaming crossover merchants Betable, slots provider Genesis, Rush Street, live casino specialists Evolution, who should be in their element Stateside, and Paddy Power. The Irish bookie is thought to have a longstanding agreement with Revel, one of four casinos yet to declare their internet intentions. The others being Atlantic Club, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, and Caesars’ two other properties. Apparently both are scoping out the market before diving in. Equally, one would expect Paddy Power to be keeping a close eye on Revel’s financial situation. Plenty of local observers expect Atlantic City’s newest casino to plunge into a third bankruptcy, which would not be a good look for Patrick Kennedy’s merry men. 888 has another two licences free I hear...sah@gamingintelligence.com
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