2015 saw a frenzy of mergers and acquisitions in the UK gambling sector: a 2.3 billion pound tie in between Ladbrokes and Gala Coral, a six billion pound merger between Betfair and Paddy Power and the 1.1 billion pound acquisition of Bwin by GVC Holdings, which also run partypoker.
Most analysts predict that this consolidation-trend in the gambling sector will continue and that the future is going to be one of large conglomerates dominating the industry. And the reasons for this? Well, there’s rising costs in three areas: tax, compliance with regulations and technology. It’s no secret that although the revenue from the gambling industry continues to rise, the growth is almost exclusively online, especially on mobile devices.
As gambling software becomes more sophisticated so does the threat from ‘betting bots’; the research and development bill is set to grow and grow and the problem of keeping bots at bay is only going to get worse. Mergers are an effective way to offset these costs and to allow companies to continue to grow.
The days of physical casinos may not yet be numbered but they are certainly up against some tough times as more and more of us gamble on our mobiles. An old fashioned casino can of course offer atmosphere and mystique, a physical excitement that makes the experience different from online gaming. Canada’s Playground Poker Club, located very much in the physical world, just ten minutes south of downtown Montreal, is just such a thriving physical presence. Established in 2010, the Playground Poker Club is, according to their facebook page,
‘recognised by poker players all over the world as Canada’s premier poker destination’.
Their liaison with partypoker is clearly good news for both partners and an interesting union of the physical and the digital. Launched in 2001, by 2008 partypoker was welcoming 3.6 million visitors to its site annually. Its 2011 its merger with betting giant Bwin created the world’s largest publicly traded gaming company. Currently it is the world’s fourth biggest online poker site, operating in fourteen different languages, with dedicated networks for French and Italian players. Group Head of partypoker Tom Waters is enthusiastic about what this partnership will bring to both organisations:
‘We are looking forward to working with the Playground Poker team, who have built a hugely successful live poker experience for the North American poker community. Using their intricate knowledge of the Canadian poker market we have the opportunity to reinvigorate the partypoker brand, attract a new generation of players and provide a platform for our existing online users that will give them an experience of playing live poker at Playground all year round.’
What this statement recognises is importance of location specific knowledge of the market, an understanding that partypoker has already demonstrated with its dedicated French and Italian sites, and the way in which a physical storefront can be used to enhance the online experience. One can only conclude that this is going to be a very happy marriage.