GVC Holdings, the company that bought bwin.party – and by extension the partypoker brand – for £1.116 billion (USD $1,697 billion) in September 2015, has announced that it plans to expand partypoker globally. The once-dominant online poker site pre-UIGEA has said that it will re-enter 21 “gray market” countries, or countries where online poker is not explicitly legal and regulated, but not explicitly illegal, either.
Speaking to eGaming Review, bwin.party’s Tom Waters, Group Head of partypoker, said, “Along with other operators in the industry, we do accept gameplay from customers based in yet to be regulated territories where customers are not prevented from accessing online gaming products.”
“We have re-opened registration for a number of markets and could potentially look to do more if the commercials support it,” he added.
The company has not put out an official list of countries yet, but Haley Hintze at Flushdraw.net wrote that the assumption is that 18 of the 21 will be countries that partypoker withdrew from in 2013: Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.
All are currently or have recently been on the list of countries on party’s site that are deemed as off-limits. One would presume that they will all be removed from the list in the near future. Five were previously removed, so that leaves thirteen. Doing the math, that also means that there are eight other countries on the blacklist that partypoker will re-enter.
Hintze guesses that those eight will include Bulgaria and Turkey, some Pacific Rim countries, and possibly Lebanon.
It is widely assumed that bwin.party withdrew from gray market jurisdictions in order to lay the groundwork for a potential re-entry into the United States. It and other companies wanted to try to keep a squeaky-clean image so that state regulators would not have any reason to deny them an operating license should they apply.
And speaking of U.S. licenses, GVC Holdings was granted an operational waiver by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), which allows bwin.party to continue to serve online poker players in the Garden State.
GVC’s acquisition of bwin.party was approved by the UK Scheme Court on February 1st, after which the new company began trading on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker “GVC.” But though bwin.party is licensed in New Jersey and has been operating in the state, GVC, its new parent, does not have a New Jersey license. The operation waiver that was issued last week allows GVC’s subsidiaries to stay active in New Jersey while GVC’s own application is being reviewed by the DGE.
The caveat, though, is that bwin.party’s employees in New Jersey cannot have any contact with GVC until GVC is licensed. It shouldn’t really matter, as they were operating without GVC before the acquisition, but it is an interesting requirement.