If Borgata And bwin.party Part Ways, What Happens Next?

[toc]The word on the street in the gaming world is that Borgata will be ending its partnership with bwin.party in the coming months, and switching its New Jersey online casino over to Game Account Network (GAN), and its online poker site to Pala Interactive’s yet-to-be-seen platform.

While this is being reported at several highly respected outlets, it’s important to note that none of this is official at the moment, and any statements made by the principals involved have been heavy on caveats, such as in the following comment by a Borgata spokesperson to eGR: “We entered in to an agreement with GAN about a month ago to provide a platform for the launch of Borgata’s simulated online experience,” the unnamed spokesperson began.

“Bwin.party has been our partner for RMG since we launched in 2013, and that partnership remains in effect. However, GAN’s technology can also provide a platform for real money online gaming,” the Borgata spokesperson continued. “Given GVC’s acquisition of bwin this agreement allows for a contingency plan to deal with the uncertainty associated with any such change of control of a material service provider.”

On the flipside, a spokesperson for bwin.party indicated there was “no change” in its relationship with Borgata, telling eGR, “We are in the process of applying for a New Jersey license and remain focused on securing all the necessary permissions to continue to provide the Borgata with its market leading online poker and casino offering.”

It’s important to note that Borgata has yet to break its deal with bwin.party, which is now owned by GVC, and, as the spokesperson for bwin.party noted above, GVC has applied for a New Jersey online gambling license and seems intent on staying in the market.

The sale to GVC

While there have been grumblings of Borgata being displeased with bwin.party since the two launched their New Jersey online gaming sites in November of 2013, the pairing has produced strong results.

Borgata and bwin.party were at the top of the iGaming market in almost every measurable category, and currently possess a total market share of over 30 percent.

Considering Borgata is the overall market leader, it’s pretty safe to say that the impetus for the potential platform change can by and large be traced back to the sale of bwin.party to GVC Holdings in September of 2015.

The sale creates some uncertainty when it comes to the level of dedication the new owners will have towards the regulated U.S. online gaming market, as it represents only a tiny percentage of GVC’s overall market share and potential revenue stream.

What a move to GAN means for Borgata

Borgata’s platform changes have the potential to shift the balance of power in the New Jersey online gaming market, but they’re unlikely to do so, at least on the all-important online casino side of things.

In New Jersey, online casino revenue outpaces online poker revenue by a six- and even seven-to-one margin. And Borgata has been at or near the top when it comes to online casino revenue every single month since the industry launched in November of 2013.

Borgata’s expected move from bwin.party to GAN should have very little impact on its online casino offerings.

We’ve already seen a major platform change in New Jersey, when Golden Nugget seamlessly shifted from Bally Technologies/Scientific Games to NYX Gaming in late 2015, and with multiple online casinos products all performing admirably in the market (Betfair, Golden Nugget, Tropicana, Caesars, Resorts, Mohegan Sun, Pala, Virgin, 888, party, and Borgata) it’s unlikely a move to GAN will have a negative impact on Borgata’s revenue.

What a move to Pala means for Borgata

Borgata has also led the way in terms of online poker revenue since the industry launched, and this is where the casino would seem to be more vulnerable, as the switch to Pala Interactive’s online poker platform comes with a bit more uncertainty than the potential casino-side shift to GAN for a variety of reasons.

First, Pala’s online poker platform is untested, and wholly unknown at this point.

Second, there are concerns within the poker community stemming from key individuals at Pala Interactive having ties to the reviled Ultimate Bet online poker site – Pala’s software is expected to be based on Ultimate Bet’s old software, but as stated above, up to this point in time, nobody has seen it to really comment on it.

And finally, PokerStars will soon be in the market, offering an alternative to whomever Borgata is partnered with, as well as the tandem of Caesars and 888.

Bottom line

Whether Borgata continues its current arrangement with bwin.party, or if the casino decides to move on and team up with Pala and GAN, it will likely have little bearing on Borgata’s online casino market share in New Jersey, since GAN has a solid online casino product, plus the fact that online casino customers seem to be less discerning than online poker players.

The one wildcard in all of this is how Borgata’s online poker platform will fare once PokerStars is added to the mix. But again, I don’t think Borgata’s potential success in a PokerStars-led market hinges on who the provider is, be it Pala or partypoker. It’s more dependent on PokerStars’ performance, and what market share Stars is able to grab.

About the Author

Steve Ruddock

Steve is a seasoned veteran of the online gambling industry, having written about it from every possible angle in his many years as a freelance gaming writer. Based in Massachusetts, Steve especially focuses on regulatory and legislative news coverage pertaining to the U.S. market.