While shares in most publicly traded UK betting operators tumbled on Thursday over concerns of a looming fixed-odds betting terminal crackdown, the 2% decline in Gibraltar-based Bwin.party digital entertainment was puzzling, given it lacks the high street presence of many of its UK competitors. The decline was doubly surprising given Wednesday’s announcement of a landmark sponsorship deal between Bwin.party’s poker division PartyPoker and two American professional sports teams. Unimpressed investors apparently put more stock into the recent opinion by Morgan Stanley analysts that Bwin.party’s overall outlook was bleak. Bwin.party closed out Thursday’s trading at 113.6p, well off Monday’s close of 125.1p, before those Morgan Stanley bullies started picking on the company.
In case people missed the significance of Wednesday’s sports tie-up, Bwin.party CEO Norbert Teufelberger made the media rounds on Thursday, telling NorthJersey.com’s John Brennan that the deal with the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers and the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils differs from the deals Bwin.party has struck with European football clubs in that “European fans go to the stadium and watch the game, where here things are much more interactive … there is a much bigger opportunity to engage fans in the arena here.” Teufelberger declined to confirm that PartyPoker would erect booths in the Devils’ Prudential Center arena, but suggested the company would “have girls there explaining the concept of online poker to new consumers.”
At a Thursday press conference in Newark to officially confirm the deal, Scott O’Neill, CEO of the 76ers, Devils and Prudential Center, said that both teams’ home venues would begin featuring PartyPoker signage on Saturday (11). Fans can expect to see PartyPoker logos on-ice, on-court and on dasherboards, plus ads on radio and TV game broadcasts as well as integration with both teams’ websites and social media feeds. PartyPoker players in New Jersey will be able to compete online in a regular Dream Seat Series for courtside and VIP suite seats for home games and road trips, as well as tickets to music concerts at both venues.
O’Neil said it didn’t seem like the teams were “breaking any taboos,” but Teufelberger acknowledged that “we’re not just selling toothpaste. We’re selling a product that can be viewed as very problematic. It has to be engaging, it has to be entertaining, but it shouldn’t be addictive.” Both execs declined to offer specifics on either the deal’s duration or terms.
The execs also said they haven’t seriously contemplated how the deal would be affected should New Jersey beat the odds and prevail in its quest to bring legal sports betting to the state. For the moment, neither the NBA nor NHL has a problem being linked with a poker site, but both leagues actively opposed Gov. Chris Christie’s sports betting pursuit. O’Neil admitted that the leagues “would have a tough time” if New Jersey began offering sports bets, but declined further speculation.