PartyGaming Admits to Merger Talks

23 January 2010

After much speculation, PartyGaming, the online poker company, has admitted to being in talks with Bwin, a rival Austrian sports betting company, about a possible merger. Such a merger could be worth more than L2 billion. It says it is also talking with other potential partners.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, the company stated: “The board of PartyGaming confirms that it is continuing to hold discussions with a number of companies in the gaming sector regarding potential consolidation opportunities…As all such discussions remain at a preliminary stage, there can be no certainty as to whether or not such discussions will result in any form of transaction.”

PartyGaming, which owns the PartPoker website, seems to be intent on acquiring various online gaming sites, thus solidifying its position. It has acquired Cashcade, owner of Foxy Bingo in July, and in November, it acquired WPT Enterprises, the organizer of the World Poker Tour. This move shows a desire on the part of PartyGaming to be interested in a return to the U.S. market, should it become legal again. It left the U.S. market in 2006 after the crackdown on online betting in the U.S. In April 2009, it agreed to forfeit $105 million to the U.S. authorities. That amount reflected it’s proceeds from U.S online gambling from 1997 to 2006, the years it offered online gambling to U.S. players.

Although PartyGaming has refused to name any other parties it is talking with about a merger, Sportingbet, Sweden’s Unibet, and London‘s 888 Holdings are all believed to be looking for merger partners.

A Bwin merger for Party­Gaming talk follows Thursday’s announcement of a deal between gaming software firm Playtech and the lottery operator Scientific Games in the US.

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