Casino News Media: Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, Playtech - Media Man News Report, by Greg Tingle - 26th August 2011


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Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month Award'...

PartyCasino.com has once again won the Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month' Award. Richard Branson's VirginCasino.com picked up 2nd place, while new entrant into the Asia Pacific Region, Grand Reef Online Casino picks up 3rd. Well done to all brands.

Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Talk Of The Town...

Earlier this year, PartyGaming and bwin merged to create Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, which is traded on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol BPTY. In an news article that appeared in The Independent last Tuesday, it was noted that since the two online gaming giants merged, the combined company’s share price has dipped by nearly half. While part of the drop might be due to a slowing economic environment worldwide and so no action might be needed, other entities felt that an infusion could be in the offing. The news outlet cautioned, however, that investors might wait for the gaming environment in the United States to be sorted out first: "Not everyone agreed with the chatter, however, with one trader saying acquisitions in the sector were unlikely until there was further clarification over the potential regulation of online gambling in the U.S."

Despite the merger, PartyPoker.com remains the flagship site of its own network, while bwin makes its home on the Ongame Network alongside rooms such as Betfair.

Caesars Entertainment, one of the principal competitors of Wynn Resorts, has partnered with 888, also a publicly traded company in London. Prior to Black Friday, Full Tilt Poker teamed up with Fertitta Interactive, whose ownership group has strong ties to Station Casinos. Along with the PokerStars - Wynn deal, the latter fell by the wayside once the U.S. Department of Justice took action in April. Other members of TwoPlusTwo continued to cast doubt on the validity of The Independent’s report. One player wrote, "Party has never had any interest in selling. This feels like an absolute recycle of the previous such rumor that they were going to be bought out by Harrah’s. Unsurprisingly, it turns out there was never such a thing on the table and the only connection was former Party CEO Mitch Garber moving to Caesars Interactive." Rumors have also persisted that the Ongame Network could be sold outright. To that end, Sharecast.com noted in a recent article, "Bwin.Party, the world's largest online gaming group, already has its poker network, Ongame, on the auction block. The sale is expected to generate between 20M and 30M Euros ($28.5m to $42.7m), a modest figure reflecting the loss of players the network will incur through the sale." But could a deal between Wynn and Bwin.Party be finalized before online poker is legalized in the United States? And will it matter? This week, the New York Post published an article stating that online poker legislation could be coming sooner rather than later. One source told the Post, "I think there is becoming a feeling in Congress that this is something that needs to be regulated and be done. I believe there is a possibility a bill will pass towards the end of the year." Media Man will be following the story with weekly reports.

Playtech delays interim dividend; shares fall...25th August 2011

Playtech , the world's biggest provider of online gambling software, said it would defer a decision over its interim dividend until 2011 final results as it was in talks regarding potential buyout and partnership deals, sending its shares down 8 percent.

"Due to exceptional strategic M&A and partnership opportunities which are currently under discussion, in order to retain maximum flexibility, it (board) will defer a decision over the interim dividend," Playtech said in a statement on Thursday.

Collins Stewart cut its price target on the company's stock to 440 pence from 505 pence citing concerns over dividend payouts.

"PTEC has chosen to defer a decision on the interim dividend, to conserve cash given acquisition/investment opportunities emerging in regulating markets, particularly given the weak financial markets backdrop," the brokerage said.

However, the Estonia-based company, which operates a joint venture with Britain's biggest bookmaker William Hill and provides software to Paddy Power, PartyGaming and Gala Coral, posted strong first-half results boosted by its casino and bingo products.

Playtech reported adjusted earnings before interest, tax and depreciation (EBITDA) of 56.1 million euros ($80.8 million), compared with 54.2 million euros last year.

Total revenues on a continuing basis grew 18 percent to 76.3 million euros.

The company also said it was confident of meeting its expectations for the year. The average forecast for Playtech's full-year EBITDA stands at 108 million euros.

Playtech, whose billionaire Israeli founder Teddy Sagi continues to hold a 40 percent stake, said average software revenue for the first 54 days of the second half were up more than 23 percent compared with last year on introduction of casino games and poker cash table games in Italy.

Playtech shares, which have lost more than a quarter of their value since the start of the year, were down 4.5 percent at 302.25 pence at 0814 GMT on the London Stock Exchange. The stock touched a low of 290 pence earlier in the session.

No dividend for Playtech investors...

Gaming software developer Playtech has chosen to pass on paying a dividend until the final results for the year, blaming the move on exceptional strategic mergers and acquisitions and partnership opportunities currently under discussion.

The company saw its revenue creep higher, from €72.8m to €76.3m, for the six month period ending 30 June, while pre-tax profit was only marginally up at €37.8m (2010 H1: €37.7m).

Net profit for the firm was up just 2% to €37.9m (2010 H1: €37.0m), but the company is confident of meeting expectations for the year.

Roger Withers, non-executive Chairman, said: "Playtech has continued to make strong progress in an uncertain market, winning new licensees, exploiting opportunities in existing and soon to be regulated markets and identifying valuable acquisitions which will add to the group's offering.

"Despite the complexity and uncertainty of moves towards regulation in Europe and the US, Playtech has positioned itself, both independently and through its joint ventures, to benefit from the continued growth of the online gaming market. As more jurisdictions move towards regulation, Playtech is able to offer new and existing operators a market leading suite of products and services, helping them to navigate the complexities of changing regulatory environments."

The company's casino revenues increased by 7% to €52.7m (2010: €49.1m), poker revenues decreased 33% to €10.7m (2010: €15.8m) and bingo revenues increased 59% to €7.1m (2010: €4.5m).

Trading in the second half of the financial year has got off to a strong start, despite the third quarter traditionally being a quiet one for the company.

Daily average software revenues for the first 54 days of the third quarter were up more than 23% in comparison to the comparable quarter in 2010, and up more than 2% versus the previous quarter.

The company partially attributed this improvement to both the introduction of casino games and poker cash table games in Italy, and the defection of players to Playtech's poker licensees due to the suspension of the second largest poker operator. In addition, service revenues introduced for the first time through the July acquisition of PTTS are trading strongly and in line with expectations.

The company's full year dividend was €0.19 in 2010, up 4% on the previous year.

The group had cash and equivalents worth €64.3m, up €4.3m from the same period the previous year.

Broker Peel Hunt said the figures were ahead of its expectations, but said the deferral of the interim dividend was a surprise.

"Some may not like the deferral of the interim dividend but, given the group’s acquisition track record and that ultimately Playtech is a growth story, we can see the logic behind the decision," analyst Nick Batram said.

The broker rates the shares as a "buy" and has a target price of 393p.

Panmure Gordon is also a buyer of the shares, and has a much higher target price of 494p.

"We anticipate upgrading our [full year] forecasts to c€120m EBITDA for 2011E and the stock is inexpensive trading on a 2011E P/E of 9.3x and an EV/EBITDA of 7.2x," the broker argues.

The share price was down 4.98% to 300.75p at 12:35.

FTSE 250 Movers: Bwin.party bid may be on the cards...

Bwin.party Digital Entertainment saw its share price head north as rumours persist that a US company has it in its sights.

Casinos operator Wynn Resorts is one name in the frame, with a take-out price of 170p per share being talked about.

Bwin.party, the world's largest online gaming group, already has its US poker network, OnGame, on the auction block.

The sale is expected to generate between 20m and 30m euros ($28.5m to $42.7m), a modest figure reflecting the loss of players the network will encur through the sale.

Irish mining company Kenmare Resources was rapidly heading back down following a rally of 7.5% on Monday on the back of a tip in the Daily Telegraph which declared Kenmare a "bargain share".

FTSE 250 - Risers
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 112.50p +6.43%

IGN Entertainment & Caesars Entertainment Announce Partnership to Bring Professional Video Gaming Tournaments to Caesars Casino Hotels...

Inaugural Live Event - IGN Pro League (IPL) 3: Origins - October 6-9 at Caesars Atlantic City

Players at home can participate in the gaming challenges with technology powered by Playhem
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 25, 2011 - IGN Entertainment, the leading video games media company, and Caesars Entertainment, the world's largest casino entertainment company, today announced a partnership to bring IGN Pro League (IPL) gaming tournaments to Caesars casinos. The live tournament event – IPL 3: Origins – featuring the mega-franchise StarCraft II from Blizzard Entertainment, will take place October 6-9th at Caesars Atlantic City, in the Circus Maximus Theater.

The Atlantic City tournament is the first time professional video gaming will hit the stage at Caesars – a major step in elevating video games as a spectator sport. IGN Pro League events also continue to be streamed live online at http://www.ign.com/ipl.

"Games will continue to be a dominant entertainment medium of the next 20 years, and the time is ripe for eSports to make its mark as a mainstream form of entertainment that can produce the next genre of celebrity in sports," said David Ting, General Manager of eSports and Vice President of Research & Development at IGN. "We believe that pro video gaming can become as popular as mainstream sports such as basketball, tennis and wrestling, and we are thrilled to partner with Caesars to bring video games to the forefront."

"Atlantic City is the top entertainment destination on the East Coast, and the location of Caesars Atlantic City at Center Boardwalk is prime for events such as the IGN Pro League tournament," said Don Marrandino, Eastern Division President for Caesars Entertainment. "We are thrilled to host this one-of-a-kind event in October and look forward to a fantastic weekend of intense video game competition."

For the inaugural Atlantic City event, IGN will bring together 32 of the top StarCraft II players to compete for $100,000 in prizes. In advance of the tournament, IGN will set up four online qualifying tournaments, where the top two players of each qualifier will be guaranteed at least $1,000 in winnings and free travel and accommodation for the event. There will be 256 competitors competing live at the venue. From these, 16 will be chosen to compete among 32 finalists live on stage in the Atlantic City event. Players and fans who converge on Atlantic City for IPL 3: Origins in October will witness global StarCraft II stars such as IdrA, Select and WhiteRa competing for the top spot and a chance to win up to $100,000.

Upping the ante for players and spectators, social networking commerce site Playhem.com will support the event by providing back-end betting technology that enables gamers of any level to play against others in head-to-head matches and tournaments for cash and prizes. IGN's online qualifiers are powered by the Playhem technology.

"Playhem is incredibly excited to be providing the online challenge gaming and tournament functionality for this ambitious and momentous initiative," said Ryan DeSanto, Co-Founder of Playhem.

The IGN Pro League is a franchise that reflects how video gaming has become a legitimate and prestigious profession. Launched in April 2011, IGN Pro League has attracted more than 1.2 million unique visitors and nearly 6 million page views to its tournaments. IPL 1 invited 16 of the top StarCraft players in North America, and IPL 2 – Across the Atlantic – convened 32 of the U.S. and Europe's best StarCraft II players to its online competitions, vying for their part of a $50,000 prize pot. The IPL 3: Origins event at Caesars in Atlantic City, as well as the previous two IPL installments, can be accessed online at http://www.ign.com/ipl.

About IGN Entertainment
IGN Entertainment is the leading Internet media and services provider focused on the video game and entertainment enthusiast markets. Collectively, IGN's properties reached more than 70 million unique users worldwide in February 2011, according to Internet audience measurement firm comScore. IGN's network of video game-related properties (IGN.com, 1UP.com, GameSpy, FilePlanet, TeamXbox and others) is the Web's #1 video game information destination. IGN also owns the world's largest men's lifestyle website, AskMen.com, and men's entertainment site UGO.com. It also provides technology for online game play in video games. IGN is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, with offices across North America, Europe and Australia.
About Caesars Entertainment

Caesars Entertainment Corporation is the world's largest provider of branded casino entertainment. Since its beginning in Reno, Nevada, more than 73 years ago, Caesars has grown through development of new properties, expansions and acquisitions, and now operates casinos on four continents. The company's properties operate primarily under the Harrah's®, Caesars® and Horseshoe® brand names. Caesars also owns the World Series of Poker® and the London Clubs International family of casinos. Caesars Entertainment is focused on building loyalty and value with its customers through a unique combination of great service, excellent products, unsurpassed distribution, operational excellence and technology leadership. For more information, please visit www.caesars.com.

About Playhem
Playhem is a video game social network that connects gamers in competition, enabling friends to challenge one another for points, cash and prizes at their favorite games, making them more exciting and engaging. Playhem works across brands, devices, and genres through support of mass-market pc, console, casual and mobile games.
SOURCE IGN Entertainment


Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month Award'...

PartyCasino.com has once again won the Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month' Award. Richard Branson's VirginCasino.com picked up 2nd place, while new entrant into the Asia Pacific Region, Grand Reef Online Casino picks up 3rd. Well done to all brands.

Betfair Poaches Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Executive...

A talent war of sorts has broken out between Bwin.Party and Betfair, with Betfair scoring the most recent strike.

Betfair has by all accounts poached bwin.party’s central marketing director Matt Robinson to become the firm's emerging markets director, a new role created for the top notch gaming executive.

Robinson, who has been at PartyGaming, today known as bwin.party, for two years and was previously at 888 for six years launching the brand in the UK, will join the betting exchange in September reporting to chief commercial officer Niall Wass.

Media Man wishes him well, and holds both Bwin.Party and Betfair in high regard.

*The writer has conducted b2 with Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment and Betfair.

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