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Poker takes a hit in Italy

Microgame and Pokerstars are dominating the Italian poker scene, although the sector took a dip during the World Cup. Graham Wood reports.


taly’s poker operators celebrated the second anniversary since the launch of the game in August, and although the figures for the first two years of tournament poker have been impressive, spend for August itself was again far below the record break- ing months earlier in the year. At the end of the month, gaming authority AAMS also announced figures for turnover on all gaming products in the July, once again well up on figures for the equivalent period of 2009. Italians spent over four and a half billion euro (£416m) in the first two years since the launch of online poker, several hundred million in the months after the game was first given the okay in September 2008 (with only Gioco Dig- itale and Microgame having integrated their software to the authority’s data- base) and thereafter, once other opera- tors launched the game at the beginning of the year, 2.3bn euro (£1.9bn) in 2009 and 2bn euro (£1.66bn) so far this year. The two companies forging ahead in the race for market share are Microgame - which has turned over 1.3bn euro (£1.08bn) of the 4.6bn euro (£3.8bn) spend so far registered, giving it a market share of 28 per cent - and Pokerstars which, in the overall figures since launch is only third in the rank- ings, but in recent months has been catching up on the leader. Pokerstars’ share in August is up to 22.4 per cent thanks to turnover of almost 50m euro (£41.6m) for the month. The Gioco Digi- tale/Bwin partnership has turned over in excess of 1.1bn euro (£915m) - 25 per cent of the total - but its customer base has been depleted by the arrival of newer operators. The company’s Ongame platform registered spend of 33.3m euro (£27.7m) in August, down 6.4 per cent on July and representing a share of 15 per cent of the monthly total. Pokerstars was the only company to register any growth in August (and less

than 1 per cent) and turnover has fallen for the last three months, although the World Cup and summer weather are no doubt contributory factors. The 221m euro (£183.9m) registered in August was down 4.6 per cent on the 231.7m euro (£192.8m) of July and far below the record breaking months of January (297m euro - £247m) and March (290m euro - £241m) of this year. Neverthe- less, August 2009 registered turnover of only 177.4m euro (£147.6m) before spend leapt in September to 211m euro (£175.6m) so operators may not be too concerned.

In fact, spend on all forms of gaming is still well above that of 2009. According to details published on the AAMS website, it was revealed that total spending for July was down slightly to 4.54bn euro (£3.78bn) from 4.7bn euro (£3.9bn) in June, but turnover was 7 per cent higher than the amount registered in the same month of last year and furthermore the month’s figures bring the total spent on gaming for the first seven months of the year to 34.5bn euro (£28.7bn), up 13.11 per cent on the 30.5bn euro (£25.4bn) registered in the equivalent period of 2009. Spend on bingo and horseracing was slightly down on the previous month, and sports betting fell sharp sharply from 346m euro (£288m) in June to 216m euro (£179.8m) in July as a result of the World Cup group stages - which included Italy - taking place in June whilst the knock out rounds - which did not include the national team and fea- tured a smaller number of matches - were played the following month. With Italians returning en masse from the beach at the end of August, operators will be keen to see how much more the country’s gamblers can spend on the ever-growing range of betting and gaming opportunities available to them.

Bwin will bring its superior betting expertise to PartyGaming’s sportsbooks

PartyGaming 55m reasons

The partnership between PartyGaming and Bwin will not only create the largest listed online gambling operator, but also save a few pennies through synergies.


Italy’s poor performance during the World Cup was reflected in the country’s poker market

12 BettingBusinessInteractive • SEPTEMBER 2010

he proposed merger between gaming giant Par- tyGaming and online book-

maker Bwin will deliver 55m euro (£45.7m) of synergies, according to PartyGaming CEO Jim Ryan. The merged organisation, which will be the world’s largest listed online gaming company with revenues of around 700m euro (£581m), will benefit from the market leading expertise developed in each product sector.

Ryan commented: “The bulk of those synergies will be delivered in the first finan- cial year following the merger. Approximately one-quarter of those synergies will be from

the revenue side of the ledger, and those are driven largely on the back of merging liquid- ity pools in the poker, casino, sports and bingo sides of the business; taking advantage of Bwin’s margins.”

The companies are expecting that a combined company will see PartyGam- ing’s sportsbooks improve under Bwin’s expertise, as the bookmaker’s in-running markets already operate at a margin 2 per cent higher than PartyGaming’s. Similarly, PartyGaming’s better casino yields can be transferred across to the Bwin portfolio. Ryan added: “All said and done, if we take a look at the full population of synergies, the 55m euro, there are 23

specific streams that we’ll be actioning to ensure that we realise the full amount of synergies. And I would like our investors to know that they can count on the full 55m euro of synergies being realised as planned.” However they may have to wait - the merger process is anticipated to take around six months time to complete, with Ryan suggesting Q1 2011 as a realistic date. Once the two firms have merged, he will take on co-CEO duties, along with Bwin counterpart Norbert Teufel- berger. Ryan believes that the shared role will be advan- tageous in handling the enlarged operator.

“It’s a partnership,” he


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