The recent news in December of Party Gaming co-founder Anurag Dikshit’s plea bargain with the U.S. Department of Justice thrust the company back into the spotlight. Now, in a recent interview with Financial Times, new Chief Executive Officer Jim Ryan has announced his plans for returning the company to the lofty perch it once held.
The article, written by Roger Blitz, points out that it has been a very difficult past couple of years for the one-time monolith in the online poker world. After its initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange in 2005, Party Gaming was valued at almost £5 billion. Since the departure of U.S. players due to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006 and the subsequent decision by then-CEO Mitch Garber to withdraw from the market, Party Gaming’s value has plummeted to under £1 billion. However, as Blitz states, there could be “a light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel” for the company.
The light that Blitz refers to is the mid-December decision by Dikshit to succumb to Department of Justice pressures and plead guilty to violations of the Wire Act of 1961. In submitting his guilty plea, Dikshit paid a $300 million fine and could face a two year jail term, although sentencing will not occur until 2010. He continues to assist the United States Government in its investigations into online gaming.
In the article, Ryan – who took over for Gerber in June of 2008 – states that Party Gaming is currently in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the company’s liabilities, but wouldn’t go into detail. The article states that the shares of Party Gaming on the London Stock Exchange have grown to 200 pence each and that a deal with the U.S. government is looming sometime this month. Shares can be found under the symbol “PRTY.”
When asked about the future of the company, Ryan was upbeat about Party Gaming’s abilities in not only online poker, but also in a realm of online gaming options. “This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Ryan is quoted as saying in the Financial Times article by Blitz. “We have been chasing quarterly profits, but the market has become so competitive, you’ve got to know where you’re going. We’re not so much slowing down, but keeping ourselves focused.”
The three year plan that Ryan has set for Party Gaming is something that he believes that other online gaming companies want to do, but his company already does. The Financial Times quotes Ryan as saying that the company, since its exodus from the U.S. market, has built a complete gaming operation that is focused on all aspects of the online world, including poker, casino, sports betting, bingo, and backgammon. “[We offer] different products with one back office platform,” he explains in Blitz’s article. “One deposit, one account – it’s a one stop shop. That is still the main strategic objective for a number of our competitors and we have it already.”
Ryan also states that he sees a day when the online gaming world will be vastly different than it is today. While poker remains the focus of Party Gaming, Ryan predicts that there will only be five online poker operators of any consequence in three years. Party Gaming at this time ranks fourth in that equation – something that “hurts,” according to Ryan – but his quote in the Financial Times piece looms large: “We need to retake the hill and position ourselves to be that leader again.”