888 acquires all of All American Poker Network, eyes US growth


888-all-american-poker-networkUK-listed online gambling operator 888 Holdings has assumed full ownership of the All American Poker Network (AAPN) joint venture to further the company’s US market ambitions.

On Tuesday, 888 informed investors that it had paid $28m — $10m upfront, the rest payable by March 31, 2019 – to acquire the remaining 53% of AAPN Holdings LLC that it didn’t already own. The company hailed the acquisition as “an important strategic milestone that will facilitate the Group’s further growth strategy in the US.”

AAPN was founded in March 2013 as a co-venture of 888 and Avenue OLG Entertainment, an offshoot of hedge fund billionaire Marc Lasry’s Avenue Capital Group, as well as some smaller investors. The AAPN served to expand the reach of 888-branded online poker sites in all states where such activity was deemed legal.

Interestingly, US President Donald Trump was partners with Lasry on a prospective US-facing online poker venture way back in October 2011, when online poker remained an illegal activity across the US. Trump’s daughter Ivanka said at the time that any poker operation bearing the Trump brand would be “the most powerful one in this space,” clearly ignorant of or willfully discounting the visceral disdain held by many US residents for Der Donald.

888 CEO Itai Frieberger said AAPN has been “a very successful endeavor” for 888 and assuming full control of the venture would provide “additional operational, technological and commercial flexibility to develop innovative and exciting new partnerships and launch in new states – through both B2B and B2C channels – as and when future regulation allows.”

888 has established an online poker presence in all three US states – Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey where the activity is currently operating under local regulations, and expects to launch in Pennsylvania in Q1 2019 through its partnership with the state’s Mount Airy Casino.

888 and its local partners also operate the only current interstate poker liquidity network in the US that connects players using the Delaware Lottery, Caesars Entertainment’s WSOP.com in Nevada and the New Jersey-based AAPN.

Investors were only modestly impressed with 888’s announcement, as its shares are currently trading up less than 3% as the day’s trading session winds down.