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New Jersey ablaze with partnership intrigue

4th July 2013 10:03 am GMT
Trump Plaza, 888, Caesars, GameAccount Network, Revel, William Hill, Paddy Power, PokerStars, Tropicana, Trump Taj Mahal, Ultimate Gaming, Gamesys, Atlantic Club and Betfair. Shuffle the names around, throw them in the air and hope they fall down in the right order. New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) cranked up the heat with its request for operators and suppliers to meet June and July deadlines in order to get up and running by November’s planned launch. The deadlines have focussed minds and partnerships are falling into place. A DGE spokesperson confirmed all 12 Atlantic City casinos have notified the regulator of their prospective partners. Unfortunately, as many of these deals are as yet unsigned, DGE is unable to confirm their identities and hence the rumour mill has gone into overdrive.However, there are a few things we know. Gamesys is likely to be providing Tropicana’s online gaming system. The deal is not yet signed but you can expect it to be. Betfair is probably funding Trump Plaza’s online gaming venture but is not ready to announce it to the stock exchange yet - probably because the deal is not yet signed. (Disclaimer: this situation may have changed between time of writing and publishing.) Of course, Trump Taj Mahal has already announced a partnership with Ultimate Gaming, the only regulated online poker company operating in the US.  Betfair relies heavily on Playtech for its own gaming technology. The London-listed, Israel-based software supplier has been putting in the groundwork in Atlantic City but has yet to do a deal. CEO Mor Weizer was all set to talk with us about his US strategy but then thought better of it and did the disappearing act that so amused William Hill CEO Ralph Topping that he decided to out Mor on his blog. He could, of course, just have gone on holiday. Alternatively, Weizer could be tearing his hair out that Gamesys won out with Tropicana, GameAccount is providing Betfair’s software while other customers such as William Hill and Paddy Power also seem to be going it alone or, worse, partnering with competitors. Although on second thoughts, Weizer is far too cool to be doing any hair-pulling. He might smoke a dozen or so more cigarettes. DGMB Casinos’ Resorts Casino Hotel was apparently in talks with William Hill, which like Betfair, has Playtech to run its gaming operations. GameAccount’s partnership with Foxwoods was formed with this exact situation in mind. William Hill and Paddy Power are also good clients of GameAccount. Indeed, it was Betfair CEO Breon Corcoran (then at Paddy Power), who introduced GameAccount CEO Dermot Smurfit to Aristocrat at G2E in November 2010. The pair would go on to form a successful partnership, which was ended when Aristocrat bought the code to GameAccount’s single player internet gaming platform. It is unlikely that GameAccount/Foxwoods will end up powering three Atlantic City casinos but the London-based software house, along with the likes of Gamesys and 888, looks like benefitting from the Playtech’s inability to convince US proprietors of its wholesomeness. Confused? Yes, you could be forgiven for that. Adding another level of intrigue and confusion is the fact that not all these deals are likely to be exclusive. So even if you think X, Y and Z casinos are partnered and ticked off the list, you could be wrong. Resorts has negotiated a deal with PokerStars to provide it with a poker system. That does not necessarily mean the Atlantic Club deal is off - litigation still has to be resolved - however, Stars did not want to be left without a partner if it loses the court case. And while the case rumbles on, other suppliers are wooing Club CEO Michael Frawley and his colleagues. DGE’s deadline was a stroke of genius in many respects.  It has flushed all these negotiations into the open, when they could have dragged for several more months. The picture is confused by the shaky financial health of many of these casinos. Many of them are emerging from or going into bankruptcy. Some of them are up for sale. They have hedge funds or private equity owners, which also need to be consulted. This is where Betfair, Paddy Power and William Hill are stepping in. The UK bookmakers are the money men with a proven track record in online gaming. They will no doubt be hoping for a future where they can assist with sports betting operations but for now, they want a foot in the door, and the best way they can do that is to finance these online ventures. Paddy Power will hope it can convince the last casino standing - Revel - of its eligibility but the casino is thought to be stalling. 888 is desperate to find another partner because of Caesars’ desire to bring its technology in-house. It is unlikely to be left standing alone at the altar. The gold rush is on and the prospectors are running about with a fervour, which was noticeably lacking in the smaller market of Nevada. It is a tricky job picking through the rumours, self-interest, lies and silences but we promise to let you know as soon as any of these negotiations become concrete contracts.sah@gamingintelligence.com
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