Shuffle Master, the casino machine and slot manufacturer and an applicant for a Nevada online gaming license, is in advanced talks with bwin.party to purchase the Ongame Network, according to industry reports and sources close to the issue.
The UK Sunday Times reported this week that Shuffle Master is expected to announce soon that it has agreed to purchase the Euro network. The report suggests it may be sold for as little as £13m (€16m). The article follows reports that Roth Capital Markets gaming analyst Todd Eilers told investors recently that Shuffle Master might be a suitable buyer of Ongame and that he “wouldn’t be surprised if Shuffle Master jumps into the bidding.”
bwin.party has been trying to sell the network for over seven months, hoping to complete a sale by the end of 2011. However, it announced to shareholders in December that, although the sale was in an “advanced stage,” it would not be completed until 2012.
Following the recent merger of bwin and PartyGaming, bwin.party currently consists of two poker networks: PartyPoker, and the Ongame Network, a network of over 25 skins including BetFair, Betsson and bwin itself. bwin sees Ongame as a “surplus asset” and, prior to the sale, it is expected that players on bwin will be moved to the PartyPoker network. According to Simon Holliday, an analyst with H2 Gambling Capital, the player migration could result in a 50% reduction in player numbers.
Eilers has stated that Shuffle Master acquiring Ongame “makes sense” following the DOJ’s shift in stance on its opinion regarding the federal Wire Act in December.
The network is currently ranked fifth for international poker networks on independent network tracking site PokerScout, and sixth overall. Although traffic will decline notably when bwin players are transitioned, Ongame is an attractive software purchase, with desktop platforms on Windows and Mac and mobile apps on Apple iOS and Android. It also holds licenses to operate poker rooms in the regulated markets of France, Italy and Denmark.
Ongame was bought by bwin – then named “bet and win” – for €473m, back in the heady pre-UIGEA days of 2005. IGT – also a Nevada online gaming license applicant – purchased Ongame poker network rival Entraction for $115m (€87m) back in March 2011 and recently renamed it to the IGT Poker Network.
Shuffle Master is one of 12 applicants currently on file with the state of Nevada for an online gaming license to offer intrastate online poker. However, the state has yet to announce when licenses will be issued or when online poker can begin to be offered within the state.