The PartyGaming And bwin Saga Continues

At the end of last month, PartyGaming and bwin’s respective shareholders approved their merger, paving the way for what will no doubt become one of online gambling’s greatest partnerships. That merger will now officially take place by April 1 after which point both entities will operate as one under the new name of Digital Entertainment.

This week, bwin rocked the boat again when they announced that they will likely be selling their primary poker interest, the Ongame Poker Network. As bwin and PartyGaming compare products and assets, there’s sure to be some overlap, but few expected that to result in the sale of one of the world’s top ten most popular poker networks. In fact, if you believe Ongame’s most recent marketing then could be selling off “the most advanced poker engine ever designed.”

Time and time again Ongame has out-performed other notable poker networks like Merge and Cereus, making its sale a sticky proposition not only for its current competitors but also for its current owners, bwin. After all, anyone that purchases the network – whether it’s a new operator or a large, existing entity – will immediately be in direct competition with the new company’s remaining poker brands (namely Party Poker). Some of Ongame’s more notable partners include RedKings,, betfair, EuroPoker and Poker Idol.

The move has confused everyone from industry analysts to everyday poker fans. As the U.S. draws ever closer to legalizing online gambling, why would an aspiring new company let go of one of their most obvious opportunities to snag a piece of the market? (The Ongame network was one of the largest U.S. poker providers prior to the passage of the UIGEA.) Furthermore, why would they want to create new competition for themselves in any market?

In related news, competing brand 888 Holdings has announced that not only are they still in talks with Ladbrokes, but that they’re also posting a significant jump in poker profits for the latest quarter. Ladbrokes has a decent poker presence but would no doubt profit considerably from adding a brand with the kind of recognition that 888 has cultured. After all, 888 currently holds an exclusive contract with one of live gambling’s biggest conglomerates, the Caesars Entertainment Corp, putting the company in prime position to take advantage of the American market when and if online gambling is legalized in the U.S.

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