Bwin.party let slip that it’s struck a deal with a land-based casino in Pennsylvania in anticipation of online poker regulation in the state, but refuses to say who.
The revelation prompted a flurry of speculation as to the identity of the mystery party, which led to one operator, Parx Casino, to categorically deny involvement after being fingered as the likely candidate.
Speaking at a recent conference call on the company’s Q4 earnings, bwin.party’s Chief Financial Officer Martin Weigold updated assembled analysts on his company’s position in the US markets:
“Outside New Jersey, we’re continuing to keep a watchful eye on other opportunities in the US,” he said. “We’ve secured a land base partner in Pennsylvania, where new bills to regulate online poker was [sic] recently introduced there.”
Taking up the theme, CEO Norbert Teufelberger said: “We’ve identified a market access partner and, should Pennsylvania open later that year, we again have the goal to be first to market there as we did in New Jersey.”
Parx and Speculation
Speculation immediately fell on Parx as the biggest casino in the state in terms of revenue that wasn’t Las Vegas Sands. The latter is owned by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corps and is therefore unlikely to be forming online gaming compacts while its owner wages a public war on a sector that he calls “a toxicity, a train wreck and a cancer waiting to happen.”
Parx also seemed like a logical partner because already had an agreement with the bwin.party-owned World Poker Tour, as host of the WPT Parx Open Poker Classic. However, the chairman of Parx’s owner Greenwood Racing, Bob Green has an ambivalent attitude to online gaming.
At the 2004 legislative hearing he said that while he recognized that it was the next logical phase in the expansion of gaming, he felt that land-based licensees “shouldn’t be affiliated, integrated, or partners” with online operators.
Despite this, Parx appeared to be preparing for the advent of online gaming when it teamed up with systems provider GameAccount in order to launch its own social casino gaming site. But Parx moved to quash the bwin.party rumors on Friday in an interview with EGR North America, leaving speculation wide open.
Because Teufelberger emphasized that bwin.party’s new partner was “one of the state’s leading casinos,” we must assume that he’s referring to one of the mid-sized casinos, which would leave any one of SugarHouse, Penn National, The Rivers, Mohegan Sun, or Harrahs.
Pennsylvania has been debating the potential of regulating online gambling for some time. A recent study, commissioned by the state’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, predicted that online poker would eventually generate $129 million in revenue per year if it were legalized, while revenue from other casino games would total $170 million.
It also foresaw a “synergistic” relationship between the two state’s land-based casinos and online operations that would “generate an increase in casino foot traffic and land-based revenue as new [online] gamers become comfortable with playing poker.”
Two online gaming bills have so far been presented at this legislative session.