If you look at any of the professional football teams (soccer to those in the United States) in Europe, you will see several online gaming companies as sponsors on their jerseys. Those companies, such as bwin, 888, Bet365 and Paddy Power (among others) have recognized the advertising potential by being associated with a professional sports team. That type of advertisement has now found its way to the U. S. through New Jersey’s new online casino gaming industry.
Late last week it was announced that partypoker had signed sponsorship deals with the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers and the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, becoming the first of any U. S. professional sports teams to align themselves with a gaming company. While the actual dollar figure on the sponsorship deals weren’t announced, the agreement will be for a multi-year time frame and will see partypoker, through its New Jersey online gaming outlet, provide several avenues for promotions for both the site and the sports teams.
“We are proud to welcome partypoker to our family as we embark on an exciting journey with an innovative global leader in the digital marketplace,” Scott O’Neil, the chief executive with both franchises, stated during the announcement. “As an organization, we will continue to align with brands that aspire to grow with us in (a) true partnership.”
Norbert Teufelberger, the CEO of bwin.party Digital Entertainment, echoed those thoughts in saying, “They (the Sixers and Devils) are two of the most iconic names in American hockey and basketball, with huge and loyal fan bases throughout New Jersey and the surrounding metropolitan areas. There is an affinity between playing in online poker tournaments and sports – winning is about having intense focus, stamina and a great competitive experience.”
The new partnership is a bit of an oddity because both the NBA and the NHL have been vehemently against any association with gambling. The four major sports leagues in the United States (the NBA and NHL, along with the National Football League and Major League Baseball) were firmly behind the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 and also have been in favor of continuing the ban on sports betting in a lawsuit against New Jersey’s efforts to open up for that activity. There do appear to be two reasons that the leagues aren’t against this sponsorship deal, however.
First off, the two leagues have been assured that there will be no sports betting allowed by partypoker (hence why the bwin half of the team, which allows for sports betting outside of the United States, hasn’t been mentioned as a sponsor). Secondly, there will be no betting activity done during games; while partypoker will have a presence at the Devils’ games (the Sixers cannot participate because Pennsylvania doesn’t have online gaming), it will be for purely educational purposes, such as how to sign up for the gaming site and other questions fans may have.
“As long as the gambling site doesn’t include sports gambling or sports betting, it’s now allowed within our rules,” NBA vice president Mark Tatum said in a statement from the league. At this point, Teufelberger is glad to have the partnership just include partypoker’s online poker outlet, saying, “Sports gambling is not on the table right now. I would hope, at some point, it will be. If it ever comes, we can sit together and see what we can make of it.”
The promotions are already underway for poker players on partypoker’s New Jersey offering. Called the “Dream Seat Series,” poker players in New Jersey can compete for tickets to both Devils and Sixers games (up to a VIP experience), the opportunity to take road trips with both squads and exclusive tickets to concert events at the Prudential Center, the home ice of the Devils.
The new alliance with these two sports teams should add even further to that bottom line for partypoker’s operations in New Jersey. Since its inception into the New Jersey online casino gaming scene at the end of November, partypoker has demonstrated that they are a force to be reckoned with. According to PokerScout.com, PartyBorgata is the 30th ranked online poker room in the industry and far and away the leader among the New Jersey rooms in existence. With a seven day average of 260 players per day, they vastly outpace WSOP.com’s New Jersey offering, which has a seven day average of 160 players.