BUSINESS

PokerStars to enter European casino, sports bet markets; dark days for public co’s

TAGs: bwinparty, PokerStars, sports betting

pokerstars-sports-betting-surveyApparently not satisfied with continuing to chip away at Bwin.party’s weaknesses (online poker), market leader PokerStars now appears to be preparing to target Bwin.party and other public gaming companies’ main profit centers – casino and sports betting. PokerStars players have reported receiving emails from Stars asking if they’d be interested in participating in an online survey. Among the questions to which PokerStars seeks answers is whether or not the participant has played casino games or made sports or financial bets via their mobile phone. Answering ‘yes’ to these questions produces a follow-up question, in which the participant is presented with an exhaustive list of European-based companies and asked to indicate which of the sportsbooks and/or casinos the participant has wagered with in the past.

PokerStars’ sudden interest in its players’ gambling habits beyond the poker channel strongly suggests it is considering – if such plans are not already well underway – launching its own online casino and sports betting operations. At the risk of tooting our own horn, CalvinAyre.com predicted that Stars would soon look to take steps beyond its pure-poker roots to capitalize on the increase in market share provided by the acquisition of Full Tilt Poker’s assets and the winding down of its legal woes in the United States. If we’re at all surprised by Stars’ move, it’s the speed with which it’s unfolding.

The speed and surprise will likely be all the more palpable in the boardrooms of public companies like Bwin.party and in the minds of these companies’ investors, who have good reason to fear how big a bite the “ever strengthening” (so described by Bwin.party’s Jim Ryan) PokerStars will take out of their remaining profit channels. And since Stars will soon relaunch FTP outside the US and undoubtedly enter into a US-facing JV once that market regulates, the public companies will soon find themselves besieged on all fronts, including the annual general meetings of their shareholders. Take it away, Martha…

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