BwinParty Announces Sponsorship Deal with NHL, NBA Teams
In case you’ve missed it, the European-style practice of online-gambling sponsorship of major professional sports teams has arrived in the United States, in the form of a deal between PartyPoker parent bwin.party and the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Both the 76ers and Devils are majority-owned by an investment group led by Josh Harris.
The deal, which is worth at least $10 million according to an anonymous cited in this Bloomberg report, is the first such pact between American pro sports franchises and a major online gambling firm — the difference being that plenty of US brick-and-mortars buy such advertising already. The advertising spends are expected to be concentrated in and around New Jersey, where the PartyPoker-powered site for Atlantic City’s prominent Borgata casino has established itself as an early market leader in the state’s new online gambling era.
The Borgata-Party union also includes the World Poker Tour as a major co-sponsor, so it wasn’t any surprise to see WPT front man Mike Sexton trotted out yesterday amid a handful of various 76ers and Devils ex-players by way of making the announcement. Devils and 76ers co-owner Harris has plenty of experience in the gambling space himself, as he’s the co-founder of Apollo Global Management Group, one of the two major hedge-fund groups that acquired Caesars (then Harrah’s) in 2006, and which was in the news just recently for being part of an investment consortium that plans to support online gambling and stand in opposition to the funding efforts of anti-online pariah Sheldon Adelson.
All this stuff ties together, as you can see.
The deal, which also includes the Prudential Center in Newark, where the Devils play, establishes PartyPoker as the “Official Online Gaming Partner” of the 76ers, Devils and the Pru. In a statement, 76ers / Devils / Pru CEO Scott O’Neil said, “We are proud to welcome partypoker to our family as we embark on an exciting journey with an innovative, global leader in the digital marketplace. As an organisation, we will continue to align with brands that aspire to grow with us, in true partnership.”
Bwin.party’s CEO Norbert Teufelberger likewise had his name slapped on a bit of corporate feel-good. Teufelberger’s requisite quote: “We are excited to be working with the Devils and 76ers and to be able to offer their fans great digital content and unique game-day experiences. They are two of the most iconic names in American hockey and basketball with huge and loyal fan bases throughout New Jersey and the surrounding metropolitan areas. There is an affinity between playing in online poker tournaments and sports – winning is about having intense focus, stamina and a great competitive spirit.”
So much for formulaic quotes.
The rollout of the new Party advertising is scheduled to take place tomorrow, Jan. 11th, at both the Prudential Center in Newark and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where the Devils and 76ers are hosting games. There’s supposed to be quite a bit of splashing around of the PartyPoker name, starting with stations (kiosks) spread around throughout the two arenas.
In addition to that, a bwin.party presser provides this list: “Included in the partnership is the integration of partypoker into the Devils and 76ers web sites and social media channels, and mobile applications; tickets and hospitality; in-arena signage, including dasherboards, on-ice and on-court; and rights to broadcast television and radio advertisements.”
It remains to be seen how much controversy is created by the new advertising deal, particularly in the 76ers part of the deal, since Party has to engage in cross-border advertising, as Party isn’t licensed in Pennsylvania. There are likely to be some anti-gambling protests, and it’s not even too Machiavellian to think that bwin.party and the Borgata wouldn’t mind a little but of that sort of the difficulty, perhaps slowing down Pennsylvania’s own consideration of online poker and gambling and leaving the New Jersey regime more in control of that on the East Coast — at least for the time being.
Such cross-border advertising has occasionally been a point of contention in Europe, as bwin.party CEO Teufelberger knows well. Not only was Teufelberger once detained for questioning by Belgian authorities over bwin.party’s advertising and signing up of players in Belgium, but back in 2006, the German football team in Bremen had its bwin sponsorship banned from being displayed on its uniforms, this before the then-Austrian company bwin’s later merger with PartyGaming.
If there’s to be any sort of controversy or protest, it’ll have to come from the online element of the deal. Casino sponsorships are commonplace in indoor arenas, most specifically the NBA and NHL. According to an NBA official quoted in the Bloomberg piece, 28 of the NBA’s 30 teams already have casino-advertising deals in place, and 20 also accept some form of lottery advertising. Given that those 30 teams includes the Jazz of Utah, a state where no gambling is allowed, the category is close to becoming a clean sweep; in that regard, online is simply the next logical step.