Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment


Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment

Coordinates: 36°08′33″N 5°21′31″W / 36.142633°N 5.358695°W / 36.142633; -5.358695

bwin.Party Digital Entertainment plc
Type Public (LSEBPTY, WBAGBPTY)
Industry Online gaming
Founded 1997
Headquarters Suite 711, Europort, Gibraltar
Key people Simon Duffy, Chairman
Jim Ryan, co-CEO
Norbert Teufelberger, co-CEO
Revenue 357.3 million (2010)[1]
Operating income 46.3 million (2010)[1]
Website www.bwinparty.com

bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Plc (LSEBPTY, WBAGBPTY) is an online gambling company, formed by the March 2011 merger of PartyGaming plc and bwin. The world's largest publicly traded online gambling firm,[2] it is best known for its online poker room PartyPoker.com and its sports betting brand Bwin. It is headquartered in Gibraltar and quoted on the London Stock Exchange. PartyGaming Plc was founded in 1997 with the launch of Starluck Casino. Prior to passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 by the U.S. Congress, PartyGaming was the world's largest online poker brand (based on cash game revenue and number of players). Its market share has diminished since then but it remains the second largest online poker room in the world.[3]

The new company became the world's largest publicly traded online gaming firm, 48.4% owned by existing PartyGaming shareholders and 51.6% by bwin shareholders. The merged company is listed on the London Stock Exchange, with joint CEO's Norbert Teufelberger and Jim Ryan.[4]

Contents

History

bwin

bwin – known as betandwin from its founding until 2006 – began life with 12 employees in 1997. The company launched its first online gambling site just one year after the company was founded, focusing on the growing sports betting market. One of the most important developments in the history of the company was the launch of its live bet product, developed in house, allowing players to place bet on sporting events while the actual event is taking place. The firm's initial public offering at the Austrian Stock Exchange took place in March 2000. In June 2001, betandwin acquired Simon Bold (Gibraltar), which is now known as bwin International Ltd., essentially moving its operations to Gibraltar. The move was made to follow some of the company’s biggest rivals to the country. By December 2001, betandwin was ready to step into the online casinogaming market and did so by launching its first casino platform. Two years later, in July 2003, betandwin introduced and launched a soft games platform known as Balls of Fire. In November 2004, betandwin launched multiplayer poker. The group acquired betoto.com to expand its presence in the Greek market in June 2005, a company which offers a fixed-odds betting service to punters around the globe. December of the same year marked another major acquisition – Ongame e-Solutions AB was taken over. This acquisition was a move consistent with the group’s strategy to expand into the poker market, after the takeover Ongame e-Solutions changed its name to bwin Games. Still in 2005 betandwin acquired global media rights outside of Germany to the German Football League. In August 2006 betandwin launched the new bwin brand. This was done after it was found that the betandwin brand, which was described as “descriptive, high-grade and functional”, was not suited anymore for the wide assortment of entertainment offerings covered by the company, including sports betting, poker, soft games, and casino games. In 2007, bwin began to offer live streaming of major sports events.

In September 2009, bwin announced the acquisition of Italian poker operator Gioco Digitale, marking the company's entry into the Italian online gambling market.[5][6]

Sports betting

Sports bets are the core business at bwin. Today, the sports betting line-up includes more than 90 different sports; the core area of customer interest is soccer. In order to boost bwin's presence in the UK football betting market, the company launched bwinbetting.com, a football betting resource, in 2011. Other sports include all popular ball-related sports, US sports as well as all major winter sports and motorsports ranging from Formula 1 to MotoGP. “Exotic” sports such as Roller Hockey, Futsal and Darts are also included in the daily line-up. Not only sports are on offer in the betting line-up. Customers will find odds on a range of events outside the area of sports. These include bets on politics and entertainment such as the Oscars, Talent Shows, the Eurovision Song Contest and "Miss” events.[7]

Poker

The following types of games are offered at bwin Poker: Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo and Five-card draw, plus house variations like Double (three hole cards, choose two, halfway between Hold'em and Omaha). In terms of stakes, users can choose between Fixed Limit, Pot Limit or No Limit tables. A “play money” version of the games is also available for users to try out for free. bwin offers poker tournaments, both, Sit & Go and scheduled, and cash games (ring games). Sit & Go tournaments begin as soon as the table is completely occupied. Scheduled tournaments begin at a specified time and allow for higher numbers of participants and the highest prize pools. In cash games the players can join and leave whenever they want. bwin Poker can be played using the Mac OS X Poker Client, the Windows Poker Client, the Java Poker Client or the Mobile Poker Client. The Mac and Windows version offers an extensive selection of features such as statistics and a mini-table function. The Java client is platform independent as it is a browser based solution. The mobile client allows customers to play cash games on their mobile phones.[8]

PokerRoom.com

PokerRoom.com was an online poker cardroom founded in 1999. Licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, PokerRoom offered both play and real money formats. Tournaments and ring games were available in both web-browser and download client platforms, with support for both Macintosh and Linux. PokerRoom was one of the first online poker sites to provide multi-language support, and catered to Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, and Swedish speakers. These languages were accessed via "regional sites," many of them showing local sponsoring for the selected region. After 10 years of operation, bwin announced the closure of PokerRoom.com on April 14, 2009. Players with money still left in their accounts were encouraged to transfer their balance and play at bwin.com.[9] However, PokerRoom.com players with large "play money" accounts had to abandon those accounts when transferring to bwin.com.

Casino games

bwin offers its customers more than 80 games, ranging from classics such as roulette or blackjack to slot machines and casino tournaments. The casino has a longstanding tradition at bwin: In 2001, it was introduced as a second product, in addition to sports betting.[10]

Soft games

bwin offers more than 60 games divided into the categories of Fortune Games, Skill Games, Mini Games and “ParaDice”, as well as Backgammon. This is the product group with the biggest potential for innovation and expansion on the market.[11]

Legal Status

The global legal framework for Internet gambling is a complicated mix of laws and regulations, bwin's situation varies therefore depending on the country concerned. For several years now, the United Kingdom and Italy have been examples of countries that have regulated their online gaming markets to the advantage of all stakeholders. Just recently, Italy extended its online licences to include poker tournaments, and countries like France, Spain and Denmark announced their intention of permitting private operators access to their markets under stringent conditions and controls. Other countries, on the other hand, are still pursuing a policy of maintaining a state monopoly of internet gaming, or even a complete ban.

On the 15 September 2006, Norbert Teufelberger and Manfred Bodner were arrested[12] at a press conference in La Turbie, France, due to offenses against the French gambling laws. After an investigation the judge released them on the evening of September 18, 2006.

Party Gaming

PartyGaming was founded in 1997[13] as a network of gambling sites operated by Ruth Parasol in the Caribbean. The network eventually operated under an umbrella company called iGlobalMedia, which then changed its name to PartyGaming. PartyGaming's flagship site, PartyPoker.com, was launched in 2001.[13] Its primary shareholders were Parasol, Group Operations Director Anurag Dikshit, Marketing Director Vikrant Bhargava (who joined the company in 1998 and 1999, respectively), and Russ DeLeon (Parasol's husband, Harvard attorney and serial entrepreneur).

In the 1990s, Las Vegas consultant and actuary Michael Shackleford ran a computer trial of the first blackjack and roulette games offered by the Company. Shackleford stated that the "results clearly showed they (the games) weren't fair". Ruth Parasol's spokesman Jon Mendelsohn acknowledged that the chances had "tipped too much toward the house", but attributed the problems to "software flaws", not rigging. It led to the development of their own proprietary software rather than using external platforms.[14]

The IPO

The foursome sold over 23% of their combined shares to take the company public on the London Stock Exchange in June 2005.[15] The initial offer price of 116p valued the company at £4.64 billion[13] ($8.46 billion). Within a month the share price rose to make the value of the company exceed twelve billion dollars. In early September 2005 a cautious statement about future growth prospects saw the shares fall by a third in a day, but the same week the company was promoted to the FTSE 100 Index. By the end of November 2005 the stock had regained its original IPO value. During the IPO, no new shares of PartyGaming were issued, and the company did not receive any additional capital as a result. Rather, shares merely changed hands with the four shareholders transferring some of their shares to investors.

Post IPO

Dikshit and Bhargava stepped down from the company's board in May 2006. Dikshit announced that he would remain with the company as the Chief Operating Officer; Bhargava would continue as an advisor and shareholder of the company while pursuing other business interests.[16]

In February 2006 PartyGaming introduced a new integrated platform,[13] enabling multiple games to be played without requiring customers to log in each time and deposit funds in separate accounts. An online backgammon site, PartyGammon.com, was launched in mid-2006.[13] In August 2006 PartyGaming acquired Antigua and Barbuda registered sports betting operator Gamebookers which focuses on the European market.[17]

U.S. legislation

On September 29, 2006, the U.S. Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

On October 2, 2006, PartyGaming announced that it would "suspend all real money gaming business with US customers" in light of the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.[18] George W. Bush signed the act into law on October 13, and PartyGaming suspended offerings of real-money games to U.S. players. Free play games and non-US customers were not affected.[19]

As a result of this news being released to investors, PartyGaming's publicly traded stock dropped almost 60% in 24 hours. The company was moved from the FTSE 100 to the FTSE 250 Index on October 11.[20]

In April 2009 the company made a settlement with the United States government where they agreed to pay a penalty of $105 million over the next four years as part of a “non-prosecution agreement”. As part of the deal, Party put its name to a “statement of facts” in which it admits for the first time that, before October 2006, it had targeted US citizens, resulting in the processing of transactions that were “contrary to certain US laws”.[21]

French legislation

In June 2010, Party Gaming obtained its first agreement on recently regulated French market. This agreement is given for the online betting activity of the websites partybets.fr and gamebookers.fr.[22] In the same time, Party Gaming obtained the online poker French licence for partypoker.fr, acfpoker.fr and luckyjeux.fr.

PartyPoker.com

PartyPoker.com

PartyPoker.com was launched in 2001 and has since grown to be one of the largest online poker card rooms. The site is endorsed by Mike Sexton, the host of the World Poker Tour television show. The domain partypoker.com attracted at least 3.6 million visitors annually by 2008 according to a Compete.com study.[23] The site offers various forms of Texas Hold'em, Omaha and Stud poker.

Split with "skin" partners

In its early days, PartyGaming entered into several marketing partnerships that allowed companies such as Empire Online, who ran Empire Poker, to share in a common pool of poker players. Players could access the PartyGaming network either through the PartyPoker.com software itself or through the software of one of PartyGaming's "skin" partners.

In mid-2005, PartyGaming made various moves to ringfence its own players from those of the "skin" partners. The company began to explore mergers, buyouts, and other options. In October of that year, PartyGaming launched an upgraded PartyPoker.com software system that cut off the "skin" partners from the main pool of players, and left the "skin" players on the old system.

In November 2005, offer discussions with Empire Online were terminated, and in December Empire Online confirmed that it had started legal proceedings against PartyGaming in the High Court of Gibraltar. In February 2006 the two companies announced a US$250 million settlement deal; PartyGaming agreed to acquire Empire's "skin" operations, and Empire dropped the suit.[24] In December 2006, PartyGaming announced the acquisition of the remaining assets of Empire Online.[25]

PartyGaming also acquired the operations of former "skin" partners IntertopsPoker and MultiPoker, in separate private transactions for undisclosed amounts.

World Poker Tour

In November 2009, PartyGaming announced its acquisition of the World Poker Tour from WPTE.[26]

Sponsorship

bwin currently sponsor football giant Real Madrid. In October 2010 bwin announced a sponsorship for the upcoming three football seasons in which they will be the title sponsor of the Portuguese League Cup - in future named "bwin Cup".[27] Italy's second tier Serie B has already been re-branded "Serie bwin" after a two-year sponsorship deal was signed in July 2010. Besides, bwin cooperates with the International Basketball Association (FIBA) and has been sponsoring the European and World Basketball Championships since 2006. In the area of motorsport, the company is one of the main sponsors of the MotoGP series. In 2010, bwin is the title sponsor of the races in Jerez and Estoril and official partner of the GP in Brno, Misano, Mugello. In the past, many other top events in the international and local sports world were supported by the corporation. bwin also lent its name to the Portuguese first football league (bwinLIGA), was sponsor of AC Milan and has been partner to famous clubs such as Juventus Turin and Werder Bremen.[28]

In addition, bwin organizes numerous poker events both online and offline. One of the biggest regular online tournaments is the ChampionChip. Special poker tournaments like the Weekly Country Showdown or the bwin Dailies offer a huge range of tournaments adjust to country specifics and buy-in levels. Periodically there are launched new types and variations of Sit & Go’s. Via several online qualifiers the bwin user can qualify for offline events like the World Series of Poker (WSOP), the Aussie Millions and events on the World Poker Tour, with the results reported at the official bwin Poker Blog. For “poker newbies” bwin offers a special route, the Rookie Challenge. There a new poker player has the chance to climb up several stages for free to earn real money tickets.

The company have faced some opposition in Europe over sponsorship of sports, especially football. In 2006 Bremen banned its top football team, Sportverein Werder Bremen, from carrying the bwin logo on its shirts.[29]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Preliminary Results 2010
  2. ^ Blitz, Roger (31 March 2011). "Gaming merger aims to outplay US rivals". Financial Times. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/03bbe4c6-5bc6-11e0-b8e7-00144feab49a.html. Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Poker Scout Online poker traffic rankings
  4. ^ "Gambling firms Partygaming and Bwin reveal merger plan". BBC News. July 29, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-10807417. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 
  5. ^ Bwin buys Gioco Digitale for push on new Italy market, egrmagazine.com, 14 September 2009, accessed 3 December 2009.
  6. ^ Bwin.com History aka Betandwin, accessed 7 April 2010.
  7. ^ Factsheet: bwin Sport Bets accessed 9 April 2010
  8. ^ Factsheet: bwin Poker accessed 9 April 2010
  9. ^ Bwin Announces PokerRoom.com Shutdown, 4flush.com, 15 April 2009, accessed 20 April 2009.
  10. ^ Factsheet: bwin Casino accessed 9 April 2010
  11. ^ Factsheet: bwin Games accessed 9 April 2010
  12. ^ Online gambling bosses arrested in France via the Guardian
  13. ^ a b c d e PartyGaming: Our History
  14. ^ Los Angeles Times: Woman Billionaire Made Fortune Selling Vice on the Internet. Published November 27, 2005
  15. ^ PartyGaming float a winner
  16. ^ Forbes: PartyGaming's Dikshit quits board
  17. ^ PartyGaming buys Sports Site Gamebookers
  18. ^ PartyGaming: United States Legislation (PDF file)
  19. ^ Life Style Extra: PartyGaming Suspends All US Gaming Activities. Retrieved 13 October 2006
  20. ^ The Guardian: PartyGaming drops out of FTSE 100. Retrieved 9 October 2006
  21. ^ Times Online: PartyGaming deal offers hope of return to US
  22. ^ Parier en France | French betting guide
  23. ^ PartyPoker attracts almost 4m visitors online yearly
  24. ^ Globes Online: Empire Online reaches settlement with PartyGaming
  25. ^ Guardian: PartyGaming to acquire Empire's online assets
  26. ^ Osborne, Alistair (2009-11-09). "PartyGaming buys World Poker Tour". London: Telegraph.co.uk. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/6532586/PartyGaming-buys-World-Poker-Tour.html. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  27. ^ Bwin seal sponsorship of Portuguese Liga Cup, accessed 8 November 2010.
  28. ^ Factsheet: bwin Sport Marketing, accessed 10 April 2010.
  29. ^ Werder Bremen to Appeal Betting Firm Sponsor Ban in Court

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