888 Holdings PLC announced today that it has partnered with U.S. investment firm, Avenue Capital Group, to create the All American Poker Network. The joint venture puts 888 in position to launch when US online gambling is made legal.
The All American Poker network will be used as a platform for offering 888’s brands in the US. The first US-facing 888 brand will launch in Nevada via a deal struck last week with Las Vegas’ Treasure Island casino.
New York-based Avenue Capital Group already has existing interests in various terrestrial casinos and entertainment companies. According to Mattingley, the joint venture provides 888 the financial clout it needs to push its product when the US market opens up.
Said Mattingley in a statement: “Working with a substantial financial partner provides the firepower that we need to take advantage of the significant opportunities that will be provided by a regulated U.S. gaming market.”
888, which inked an agreement with Caesars Interactive Entertainment just a couple of weeks ago to supply software for a World Series of Poker-branded website in Nevada, is one of several European and London-based gambling operators jockeying for a leadership role in a future regulated US market.
Added Mattingly: “Our WSOP agreement with Caesars gives us an excellent B2B deal with one of the largest global gaming brands and most prominent casino operators, and we also have a strategic alliance with one of the largest gaming machine manufacturers in the world, WMS. We now have a significant financial partner for our leading B2C product – the final piece in the jigsaw, completing our US online strategy.”
US states are in a race to legalize online gambling. Last month, New Jersey approved online gambling, making it the third state after Delaware and Nevada to do so.
However, they may soon be outpaced by the US federal government. Efforts to pass a national online gambling bill are gaining traction, with new legislation likely to be introduced in the spring.
“How far the US market ultimately opens remains uncertain,” said Peel Hunt analyst Nick Batram.
“What is certain is that the market will be fiercely competitive, but 888 has given itself a good platform upon which to build.”
888’s share price rose more than 5% this morning following the announcement.