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Poker: WPT for Sale

The knowledgeable and well connected Wall Street Journal columnist Brett Arends, writing in the publication Marketwatch this week, poses the question "Is the World Poker Tour up for sale?"
 
The indications would appear to suggest it is, with CFO Tom Flahie revealing that he had provided confidential data to third parties, and CEO Steve Lipscomb confirming: "We've had discussions with, and exchanged documents with, some companies that have expressed an interest." Pokerstars
 
Arends examines the recent and troubled past of the company, observing that it isn't hard to see why the WPT would be in play. "Years of losses and missteps have left it looking like an impulse purchase for a major broadcaster or an online poker company," he writes before noting a stock price at $1.25 for parent company WPT Enterprises, giving it a value around $25 million.
 
"The company has about $18 million in net cash sitting on its balance sheet. Flahie confirmed that pretty much all of that would be available to an acquirer. So the "enterprise value" -- the net cost -- would only be about $7 million or so at current prices," Arends comments.
 
Arends goes on to quote Lipscomb, who says, when he talks to potential sponsors: "The inevitable question when someone is about to pay you $3 million, or $4 million, or $5 million, is (for them) to look and say, 'Why don't I just buy your company? Oftentimes the answer is: It's not for sale. But of course everything is always for sale."
 
WPT is apparently doing somewhat better nowadays, which may make it more attractive. It generated positive cash flow last quarter for the first time in more than two years, and Flahie says he's confident they will break even, or better, for the year.
 
But, Arends observes, it's a long decl,ine for a company that was once valued at half a billion dollars and revolutionised televised poker, playing a key role in creating the poker boom of recent years. WPT launched the tour - a series of high-stakes tournaments in various cities - back in 2003. The key invention was the so-called "hole cam," a camera that let TV viewers see the players' hidden or "hole" cards during the betting, building audience interest and excitement.
 
In 2005, at its peak, the stock hit $26.
 
Arends reports that critics diagnose the decline as too many copycats and a company that never found a way to convert its brand name into a reliable revenue stream. Even selling WPT-branded products didn't work: Online casinos give away many of the same things for free. Company mistakes didn't help - from a failed venture in China to letting costs get out of control. From 2004 to 2008 overhead trebled to $22 million while revenues, after a brief boom, fell backwards. This in a world where the poker boom went from strength to strength.
 
"The poker boom in the U.S. isn't quite as manic as it was a few years ago. But overseas it is still growing like Topsy," Arends writes.
 
Lipscomb says the World Poker Tour is now broadcast in more than 150 countries. In France, his second biggest market, episodes sometimes get more viewers than in the U.S., and the company has a strong brand in a crowded field and much experience.
 
Arends concludes his article with a review of the legal position in the United States, where some states may be about to exercise their prerogative to legalise poker as a generator of tax revenues, and Congressman Barney Frank is working at the federal level on trying to legalise online gambling in general in the USA. It poker achieves legalised status, there are clearly some very positive possibilities for companies in the business.

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"Other countries are also taking a second look at liberalizing online gambling laws," Arends comments. "The big reason? Governments desperately need more revenues -- and legalizing, regulating and taxing online gambling may give them just that.
 
"There are reasons to hope that things may look up for the World Poker Tour after all."

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Gambling News :

Amaya FY2016 Trading Update - The Montreal-based Amaya online gambling group has issued a trading update covering FY 2016 and improving its forecast revenue and earnings numbers.

Another Mega Fortune Dreams jackpot for Euro 3.5 million - In a statement Friday NetEnt advised that the lucky player is a 62-year-old woman from central Finland who won the seven-figure sum from a Euro 1 stake.

Stanleybet has filed a legal action against the government of Cyprus - Bookmaking firm Stanleybet has filed a legal action against the government of Cyprus, claiming Euro 12.5 million as compensation for what it claims is loss of profits and opportunities, prejudice to image and business reputation and legal costs.

LeoVegas To Sponsor Leicester Tigers - The agreement includes official partner accreditation, media space at Welford Road stadium and matchday tickets and VIP hospitality as well as two pitchside perimeter boards from the 2017/18 season and one for duration of the 2016/17 season.

Optima Information Services iShop - Industry visitors to the recent TVC Bookmakers Trade Fair in Solihull, UK were much taken by Spanish betting technology firm Optima Information Services' iShop product, and the company went on to win the SBC Best Retail Betting Product award with it last month.

Golden Nugget Las Vegas Launches New Betting App - Golden Nugget Las Vegas has unveiled a sports wagering app offering Nevada punters the comfort and convenience of being able to wager from anywhere in the state.

CAGAYAN CHIEF MOVES TO REASSURE LICENSEES - Apparently $4 million is going into improvements of the Authority’s data centre in the Freeport at Cagayan, whilst another $3 million has been earmarked for an upgrade to data infrastructure located outside the Freeport.

New Massachusetts Online Gambling Bill - It seems that every two years (give or take a few months) Massachusetts state Senator Bruce Tarr flights an online gambling legalization bill in the state Senate.

Las Vegas Sands Fined for foreign bribery allegations - #lasvegassands Las Vegas Sands, the land casino company owned by multi-billionaire US mogul Sheldon Adelson, has again had to cough up a stiff penalty for non-compliance with the law.

Libratus AI Program Destroying Human Poker Opponents - #Libratus With 40,340 hands played (about a third of the 120,000 planned) Dong Kim is down $29,506, whilst Jimmy Chou ($113,7728), Daniel McAuley ($141,877) and Jason Les ($186,489) are all carrying losses.

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