Wednesday, October 19, 2011 : ONLINE GAMBLING GROUP IN U.S. ROADSHOW
Bwin.party digital team led by joint CEO Jim Ryan punts to US investors
Jim Ryan, joint chief executive of bwin.party digital entertainment, the rather ponderously titled merged internet gambling interests of Bwin Interactive and Party Gaming, has been doing the rounds of investors in the United States, reports Forbes magazine.
The publication reports that Ryan and his team have spent three out of the last five weeks in the States, presenting the strengths of the world’s largest publicly-traded online gambling company to potential American investors.
"Ryan’s presentation included a one-page chart that listed the top online poker brands in the U.S. market and made a stark point about brand awareness: The names of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, until recently the favorite destinations of U.S. online poker players, were crossed out in red," the Forbes report notes.
“Where you see the red lines, those organisations have been indicted, so although one can’t predict the future, it’s unlikely you will see those brands back in the U.S.,” Ryan said during an interview. “The brand that has the most consumer awareness is in fact the PartyPoker brand.”
Bwin.party digital owns both PartyPoker and the World Poker Tour, two of the top online poker brands that did not have their U.S. operations shut down by the U.S. Justice Department on Black Friday because they were not facilitating real-money online poker play in America.
Party Poker has already – for a substantial chunk of money – cleared its slate with the US Justice Department.
Forbes speculates that Ryan is working on a US comeback for his company, and the executive appeared to confirm this, revealing that he was working on partnerships with two US companies and commenting: “My focus is on the U.S. Even though there is no guarantee that online gaming will ever regulate in the U.S.”
Forbes points out that operating in the highly-regulated and taxed European markets while competing against well-run companies like PokerStars is tough.
"Bwin.party’s stock, which trades on the London Stock Exchange, has tumbled by 50 percent in 2011. Big corporate mergers are never easy, but the company has also suffered a defeat in Germany, where the nation’s top civil court recently decided to uphold an online gambling ban, and been slammed by higher gaming duties across Europe," the publication observes.
"When the company tried to take advantage of the April U.S. shutdown of PokerStars and Full Tilt, Bwin.party found that while some new European players were attracted to its poker brands, revenues remained flat. It wasn’t until Full Tilt’s European regulator suspended Full Tilt’s license in late June that Bwin.party’s increased advertising and promotional expenditures started to pay off.
"PartyPoker is now the second-biggest online poker room, according to PokerScout.com, averaging 4,150 cash players during any given time. PokerStars has 22,800."
Ryan revealed that he has fine-tuned his company’s business-to-business capabilities over the last few years with an eye toward finding a U.S. partner and re-entering the lucrative US online poker market.
“We had to be realistic about where we sat in the food chain,” he told Forbes. “We figured if the U.S. regulated it would be unlikely that we would secure a licence directly, that the laws of the land would be written to allow existing land operators and equipment manufacturers in the U.S. to secure the licenses.”
Nevertheless, it appears that Ryan is optimistic about current political developments on internet poker legalization in Washington, driven by the American Gaming Association and powerful casino companies like Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts.
He is apparently also preparing for a situation in which online poker legalization could come about on a state-by-state basis.
“We have to be ready for both federal or state,” he told Forbes. “It feels good to have American taxpaying companies finally driving this.”