WPT Inks Deal With Chinese Gaming Leader
The World Poker Tour (WPT) announced this week that it has signed a deal with Chinese gaming giant Ourgame International Holdings Limited to give Ourgame exclusive WPT throughout much of Asia. The agreement officially begins come the New Year.
Ourgame will have the right to the WPT brand, including logo and trademark, in a large number of countries, including China, Indonesia, and Korea. They will also have rights to the brand in Japan, though that deal is non-exclusive.
In a press release, WPT President Adam Pliska said of the alliance:
The World Poker Tour® has worked hard to expand its footprint throughout Asian territories over the last few years with much success. A big part of this success was based on our strong working partnership with Ourgame, who established WPT National China at MGM Grand Sanya. Ourgame has proven to be exactly the sort of business ally we seek; a credible group of visionaries with incredible strategic leverage and a true commitment to the long-term growth of poker. By working with Ourgame to expand the WPT brand in Asia, we are assuring that the recent strong growth of the WPT in the region will continue for many years to come.
Ourgame was founded in 1998 as an online card and board game developer. It has grown into a formidable internet presence, now with 30 games in its stable. The company says it is the largest online games website in the world and the statistics it presents certainly bear that out:
• 70 million registered users
• 700,000 paid members
• 30 million daily page views
• 10 million active weekly users
• 320,000 peak simultaneous users
Ongame has a play-money Texas Hold’em game, so it is no stranger to poker. Players can even compete in tournaments to win seats in live events.
The deal with Ourgame will go beyond just online gaming. The World Poker Tour also plans to start up new events in the region (Macau would be a likely destination) for both its main tour and the WPT National Tour in 2015. The two companies will also work on more television programming in Asia.
Ourgame CEO Frank Ng chimed in, saying:
As China’s leading card and board game platform, we are very pleased to have found a great global partner in the World Poker Tour, as we start to expand from China to Asia. The WPT is a true global leader in organizing world-class poker events around the globe, and we share a common vision of promoting poker as a genuine mind sport. Over the past three years, we have worked together to not only establish WPT National China as one of the largest and most influential poker events in Asia, but also introduced world-class poker tournaments to the fast-expanding Chinese poker community. The WPT’s brand and global experience will be a significant asset to us as we expand overseas, and we have every confidence that we will together achieve much more success in Asia.
There are no events currently on the main World Poker Tour schedule for the region, but the MGM Grand Sanya did host WPT National China from October 28th through November 2nd. WPT National Philippines was also held at the end of October.
Macau, one of the regions that is part of the deal, is the world’s top gambling hub, even bigger than Las Vegas. It is the only place in China where gambling is legal; a number of American companies have built casinos there, including Wynn Resorts (Wynn Macau) and Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands (Sands Macau and the Venetian Macau). In fact, for all his fear of online poker in the United States, Adelson makes most of his money from his Macau properties.
China’s President Xi Jinping has been cracking down on corruption in Macau over the last two years, as because it is a destination for the super wealthy, Macau is, as Bloomberg.com puts it, “viewed as a conduit for officials and businessmen to bypass currency controls and send money out of the mainland to safer havens.”
One result of the crackdown is that many high rollers have been scared away. Bloomberg says that these high rollers comprise two-thirds of the Macau gaming market, a market that amounted to more than 80 percent of Macau’s total revenue in 2013. It might please many Sheldon Adelson loathers to know that his fortune has taken a hit because of this, as shares in Sands China Ltd have fallen 34 percent in the past year.
PokerStars also has a presence in Macau in the form of the brick-and-mortar poker room, PokerStars Macau (they are all so cleverly named), at the Grand Lisboa Casino.