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Shuffle Master Buys Ongame

US-based slot-machine operator Shuffle Master has ventured into the online poker market, acquiring the Ongame network from Bwin.Party for €19.5 million (£16.2), according to eGaming Review.

The cost of the network can alter, subject to the American market. The price-tag of Ongame may increase up to €10 million if the U.S government legalise online poker within the next five years. The company notes that “The €10 million contingent payment decreases through that five-year period.”

The sale notes a 95% decrease in value from the £474m acquisition by Bwin in 2005. This is based on the UIGEA forcing Ongame out of the American market and Bwin’s description of the network as a “surplus asset”, despite it being placed 5th on Pokerscout for worldwide player traffic. While the acquisition is yet to be finalised, it is expected to close by the end of the year.

The US operator had been revealed as one of 20 companies that have applied for Nevada’s eGaming licence, meanwhile, Ongame already has licencing in the regulated markets of France, Italy and Denmark. It has also applied for the newly-regulated Spanish market, expected to be opened early-April.

It is the second occurrence of a US company acquiring a European-facing network in the last twelve months, after IGT bought Entraction for $115m in May last year.

Gavin Isaacs, Shuffle Master’s chief executive, said about the acquisition: “Poker is a natural fit for our table-centric online offerings and our many jurisdictional licences present a compelling opportunity for our current and future online customers,”

Previously, PokerUpdate reported on “Ongame2.0”, the sub-network of exclusive tables between Ongame’s largest skins and discussed about the future of the network with reports on Shuffle Master being the most likely buyer.

It brings a positive message on the possibilities of poker being legalised in the USA, with two US-companies already acquiring poker networks and with operators such as 888/Dragonfish and Chiligaming with exclusive deals to enter the American market. Despite the news that online poker was not to be legalised on recent tax legislation, businesses are still gearing up for the US-market to re-open in the near future.

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Perry Garland