GVC Plans Global Re-Expansion for Ailing PartyPoker
Once upon a time, way back in the early and middle ’00s, there was a massively popular online site that billed itself as the “World’s Largest Poker Room.” The site dwarfed all of its competition for several years, before a series of business gaffes and regulatory missteps toppled the giant from its throne, with billions of dollars of shareholder equity wiped out in the process. That site? PartyPoker.
And now, as the flip side of the New Jersey (United States) story we explored earlier this week, new PartyPoker and bwin.party owner GVC Holdings will attempt to reverse at least a little bit of that trend, returning the once-prominent brand to roughly 21 “gray market” countries from which the prior bwin.party bosses had exited a few years back.
According to Bwin.party’s current Group Head of PartyPoker, Tom Waters, “Along with other operators in the industry, we do accept gameplay from customers based in yet to be regulated territories where customers are not prevented from accessing online gaming products.”
Added Water, who was speaking on the topic to EGR, “We have re-opened registration for a number of markets and could potentially look to do more if the commercials support it.”
The complete list of the 21 countries where PartyPoker will resume accepting player registration and real-money deposits has not been formally released by the company, but 18 of the 21 countries are believed to be the same gray-market nations that bwin.party exited back in 2013, as part of what was believed to be a look-sharp move to please various US regulators.
Those 18 countries:
Thirteen (13) of those 18 countries appear on the current list of prohibited territories on bwin.party’s site, though that page was last updated on January 19, 2016 and can be presumed to be slightly out of date. Five other countries from the list of 18 that Party exited in 2013 (Belarus, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, Slovenia_ were previously pulled from the prohibited list.
That leaves approximately eight countries from the remaining list of recently prohibited countries, which also included the following: Afghanistan, American Samoa, Bermuda, Bulgaria, Congo (Democratic Republic), North Korea, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guam, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Liberia, Myanmar, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Pakistan, Peoples Republic of China, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Sudan, Reunion, Rwanda, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, St Barthelemy, St Martin, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, US Minor Outlying Islands, US Virgin Islands, Zimbabwe.
New owner GVC certainly won’t be bringing PartyPoker back to any of the countries where online gaming is already being formally regulated. Therefore, from that chunk of countries in the previous paragraph, all the nations and territories related to the US, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Israel can be safely crossed off the list of the eight or so remaining possibilities.
That leaves a couple of Eastern European gray-market countries, Bulgaria and Turkey, among the likely adds. Most strife-ridden Middle Eastern countries offer no online-gambling volume, but Lebanon is a notable exception, and may be another Party add. That leaves five or so of the re-adds to be island nations or Pacific Rim countries and protectorates. Whether or not Mainland China and China-controlled Hong Kong are two of those adds remains anyone’s guess.
GVC’s move to reopen PartyPoker in all these countries, however the exact list shakes out, is again indicative that Party’s new owners have very much a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward the nascent US online market. Bwin.party is involved in only one of the three states, New Jersey, where online gambling has been legalized, and that’s been a money-loser for the company ever since the deals with New jersey casinos were struck.
Worse, there’s no more US growth on the immediate horizon. A handful of states continue slowly stumbling forward with legislative efforts, but if even one more state joins the online parade in 2016, it’ll be a pleasant surprise. Therefore, GVC’s move, while being a bit bold, makes a lot of financial sense.