Steve Ruddock 888 bwin deal CA online poker outcomes

888 Holdings has reached an agreement with bwin.party to purchase the company for the sum of $1.4 billion. If the deal is completed (GVC has entered a new bid) the deal will likely have a far-reaching impact on the online gaming industry.

Because of the two companies involved, it will likely have significant repercussions for the current and future legalized U.S. markets.

Here is how the deal impacts California, beginning with…

… bwin.party’s California partner UAIC

In May of 2012, partypoker entered into an agreement with the United Auburn Indian Community that would see partypoker supply the tribe’s online poker platform should online poker be legalized in the Golden State.

UAIC operates the Thunder Valley Casino Resort near Sacramento, California.

This partnership could play out one of three ways following the expected sale of bwin.party to 888.

Scenario 1: 888 and UAIC could keep the current deal in place

If both UAIC and 888 decide to keep the current deal in place, Thunder Valley would launch with the partypoker platform. This is assuming 888 doesn’t roll partypoker into its existing product, sell it off, or in scrap partypoker in some other way.

This scenario would give the company two separate brands to work with in California, but it would also keep it from maximizing its liquidity, as it’s unlikely 888 and partypoker would be rolled into a single network.

Which brings us to scenario number two.

Scenario 2: 888 and UAIC could enter into a new agreement, replacing partypoker with 888

In February, UAIC along with two other tribes, Rincon and Pala, broke away from the anti-PokerStars/anti-racing coalition led by Pechanga.

The new three-tribe RAP coalition is unopposed to racetracks applying for iPoker licenses and has softened its stance on a bad actor clause that would keep PokerStars out of the market.

Why is this important?

Rincon’s casino is run by Caesars Entertainment, which is already partnered with 888 in New Jersey and Nevada, and everyone is expecting 888 to partner with Rincon even though no official announcement has been made.

If UAIC were to dump partypoker and use 888’s poker platform, the two already-aligned tribes could form a readymade online poker network. Along with Bay 101 Casino, which announced a partnership with 888 in April of 2015, it could be a major player in the California online poker market.

But what if UAIC thinks the grass is greener elsewhere?

Scenario 3: UAIC or 888 could terminate the partnership

If the partnership between UAIC and bwin.party is simply severed, it would leave UAIC free to partner with another online poker provider.

One potential partner could be PokerStars.

PokerStars has already partnered with Morongo and San Manuel tribes, as well as three card rooms – Commerce, The Bike, and Hawaiian Gardens – so bringing UAIC into the mix (UAIC’s current stances on bad actor clauses and racing are almost identical to PokerStars’) would not only strengthen the coalition as it pushes for inclusion and legalization, but it would also boost potential liquidity.

Basically, instead of forming an online poker network with Rincon and Bay 101, UAIC could join the PokerStars network, or perhaps even partner with some other platform under this scenario.

Speaking of PokerStars…

… Did PokerStars miss a golden opportunity?

Had Amaya and GVC landed bwin.party (GVC’s new bid doesn’t include Amaya), and had bwin.party’s U.S. assets been sent to Amaya, it would have silenced a lot of the company’s detractors in California who have been fighting to exclude PokerStars from the future California online poker market.

Granted that’s a lot of ifs, but since partypoker doesn’t meet the bad actor criterion Pechanga and others are calling for in any online poker legislation, PokerStars’ parent company Amaya would seemingly be able to deploy the partypoker software in California without opposition.

This would essentially destroy the argument that the current incarnation of PokerStars is somehow culpable for what occurred at PokerStars between 2006 and 2011.

In and of itself the acquisition of bwin.party wouldn’t remove all opposition to PokerStars in California, but it would be yet another line of reasoning PokerStars could point to whenever it’s attacked.

Amaya could effectively argue that if its subsidiary partypoker is suitable, why isn’t its other subsidiary PokerStars, or even Full Tilt Poker for that matter?

Did it miss an opportunity to advance its case in California?

Perhaps, but it certainly wasn’t a golden opportunity considering the current trends on the bad actor clause front, PokerStars’ expected licensing in New Jersey, and California’s inability to pass an online poker bill.

If the sale to 888 goes through as expected, PokerStars will have to rely on its current arguments. And in the end PokerStars probably has little use for partypoker’s U.S. assets.

Steve Ruddock
Steve Ruddock - Steve is one of the most recognizable names in the online poker media space. He brings his deep knowledge and equally deep well of opinions to his coverage at CaliforniaOnlinePoker.com.