Bwin.party and the Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City are exhaling a collective sigh of relief this week after officials with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) issued an order allowing the interactive gaming supplier to continue operations while the state investigates its new owner, GVC Holdings.
The Borgata is the land-based partner to bwin’s online casino platform.
It was revealed late last week that GVC’s $1.7 billion acquisition of bwin.party might void the latter’s online poker and gaming license in the Garden State. Borgata representatives were reportedly looking for potential partners in case the DGE ordered bwin to close its business during the inquiry period.
On Monday, GVC and the DGE reached an agreement to allow bwin to continue operating in the state as the gaming agency deliberates over GVC’s license application. However, a stipulation was made that during the process, GVC executives are prohibited from having any communication or managerial control over bwin.party.
The DGE’s resolution will mean that bwin avoids a potentially catastrophic injunction as it relates to online poker. Bwin controls the largest share of the overall iGaming market in New Jersey, but when it comes to iPoker, the network remains second, behind the WSOP/888. The latest seven-day numbers from PokerScout show Party Borgata, the bwin site, trailing its rival by 60 players on average.
With PokerStars approved to commence operations and expected to do so in the coming months, the poker room at Party Borgata likely would have gone on life support had it been blocked until state regulators made their verdict on GVC’s application. Considering its positioning as the leader in the global Internet poker market and it’s pre-2011 popularity among US residents, PokerStars is expected to quickly gain a significant percentage of the New Jersey customer base once it launches.
Unlike its previous run in America, this time around, PokerStars is also going after the broader online gambling community, thanks to its casino product that now offers slots, blackjack, and roulette.
The final decision in determining whether to approve GVC’s license request will not be made without much diligence from DGE Director David Rebuck.
Per its own mission statement, the Department is charged with protecting “the public interest by maintaining a legitimate and viable industry, free from the influences of organized crime, and assuring the honesty, good character and integrity of casino owners, operators, employees and vendors.”
GVC comes with baggage that might concern DGE officials, including owning at least two interactive gaming brands that have been accused of operating in unregulated territories.
GVC executives nonetheless expect to receive New Jersey’s stamp of approval in the coming weeks and become a fully licensed operator. That said, GVC CEO Kenneth Alexander has stated publicly that he didn’t push to acquire bwin.party because of its US-facing operations, but instead for its global brand identity.
Having watched PokerStars and Amaya get the third-degree from the DGE before it earned its licensing approval, GVC is possibly going with the “we don’t need you as much as you need us” school of interaction with the New Jersey gaming authority.