Operator signs second major partnership in the US – will see launch of free-play offering ahead of intrastate or federal legislation
888 has announced its second major partnership in the United States, signing a deal with WMS Gaming which will see the solutions provider offer 888’s online poker product to land-based casinos in the market.
The product will initially only be available as a free-play solution, but will allow casinos to launch real-money poker once federal or intrastate regulation is passed, and licences have been secured.
Commenting on the deal 888 CEO Brian Mattingley (pictured) said: “WMS is one of the main gaming suppliers in America, with a network of relationships with land-based operators that is second to none. The combination of 888′s cutting edge online poker platform and WMS’ customer relationships, marketing and distribution capabilities, provides the opportunity to build a substantial online presence.
“By deploying our joint online poker solution, casino operators in the United States will be able to provide their customers with a robust and secure network with the liquidity and games offering to give the best possible player experience,” Mattingley explained.
WMS president Orrin J. Edidin said that the deal would be invaluable for land-based operators looking to move online, explaining: “Aligning our efforts with 888 Holdings will allow WMS to provide our casino operator customers with the capabilities and benefits from one of the world’s most experienced online poker operators which will significantly support their efforts to benefit from online poker in the United States as it becomes legal.”
Following the announcement of the deal analyst Nick Batram of Peel Hunt reiterated his firm’s ‘Buy’ recommendation, explaining that the deal gave 888 scope to further enhance its US presence: “It is possible that the relationship with WMS could be developed further, the US group’s other partners include brands such as Hasbro, Warner Bros, Fremantlemedia and CBS,” adding that “There is no mention of the word exclusive and this is very much 888’s strategy in the US.”
“Whilst the true value of the deal with WMS will only be realised if online poker legislation develops positively, the deal reflects the growing presence of 888 in the online gaming market,” he concluded.
Both 888 and WMS have submitted applications for Nevada licences, with 888 having already secured approval from the state’s Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission for its existing deal with Caesars Interactive – the first partnership between a Nevada-licensee and a foreign egaming operator. The deal – first signed in September 2009 – originally only covered Caesars’ European-facing poker operations, but was extended to cover the US market in January this year.
It follows Mattingley’s admission that the operator was in talks over a “nationwide” B2C deal and it further strengthens the operator’s foothold in the US market, and continues the company’s impressive turnaround under the operator’s former deputy chairman.
Since taking over from Gigi Levy, who has now also stepped down from the 888 board, Mattingley has overseen three consecutive quarters of record revenues, resulting in his official appointment as group CEO in March this year.
Mattingley has been bullish about 888 being the first operator to launch in the US market, with the company also in talks with a number of other casino groups including Trump Entertainment to acquire additional B2B clients and launch its own poker offering.