The tug-of-war over bwin.party continues as GVC Holdings and 888 Holdings try to win the heart of their online gambling rival. 888 CEO Brian Mattingley (pictured) is both confident that his company will win the day and none too thrilled about the latest developments.
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About a month ago on July 9, GVC, which owns the internet sports book Sportingbet, paired up with PokerStarsand Full Tilt Pokerowner Amaya Gaming to present a 110 pence per share offer for bwin.party.
888, which had been trying to purchase bwin.party for some time, saw that it needed to do something in a hurry, so it offered a bit less – 104.09 pence per share – a week later. To the surprise of many, bwin.party accepted 888’s offer over GVC’s.
Part of 888’s pitch was that it shared many things in common with bwin.party such as office proximity, similarity between gaming units, and overlaps in licensing, all of which would make the transition easier.
Additionally, it is thought that GVC and Amaya would have chopped up bwin.party after the transaction, with GVC taking control of bwin.party’s sports betting and casino businesses and Amaya nabbing PartyPoker. This reportedly did not sit too well with bwin.party. On top of that, the rest of the industry would not have been overjoyed with Amaya owning PokerStars, Full Tilt, and PartyPoker.
Thus, it was back to the drawing board for GVC. Last week, GVC took another swing, increasing its offer significantly, up to 122.5 pence per share. That put the value of the deal at just over £1 billion. GVC approached things a little differently this time as well, cutting Amaya Gaming out of the picture and instead securing a €400 million loan from Cerberus Capital Management to help finance the deal.
As of now, bwin.party has not accepted GVC’s new offer, so 888’s is still the winner. Mattingley recently told the UK newspaper The Times that even though GVC has outbid his company twice, he feels very good about 888’s chances: “We have rehearsed our strategy more times than we care to think of. We know how it’s going to be done. I am confident this is doable with low-ish risk.”
He also reiterated that even if GVC’s offer is more lucrative, 888 is simply the better fit, a notion that should not be brushed off. He explained, “I don’t think it’s only the quality of the paper… We know how to execute it and obtain the synergies. I think we have satisfied to the target company that we are a good, straightforward, honest, hard-working, and fit company to go forward. Our growth has not come just from doing wacky things in illegal territories; it has come from driving customers through our CRM and marketing campaign. The bwin.party board unanimously recommended our bid.”
Considering that bwin.party already accepted 888’s lower bid and has yet to accept GVC’s sweetened deal, it does sound like bwin.party is not just concerned about the money. It wants to go to a good home.
888’s poker room, 888 Poker, is currently ranked second on PokerScout’s cash game traffic chart with a seven-day average of 2,220 cash game players. PartyPoker is sixth with 1,050. Should 888 end up winning, the United States regulated market becomes more interesting, as 888 would essentially have a monopoly in the three states that allow online poker: Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.
WSOP.com in Nevadauses 888’s software, as do the three Delawareonline poker rooms. WSOP.com and 888 have combined forces in New Jersey, while the other competitor in the Garden State is the PartyPoker/Borgata Network, which, as you can tell, runs on the PartyPoker platform. If 888 buys bwin.party, that network would be under 888’s control.
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