Bwin.party is poised to claw back some of the ground it fatally lost after it pulled its PartyPoker online poker game from the US after it revealed that it was ready to submit its gambling licence application in the state of New Jersey.
In a trading update, Bwin.party revealed that it submitted the application well before the July 31 deadline meaning it should have its poker offering back into US homes, or at least in the state of New Jersey, before the end of the summer.
In preparation for the moved, the UK-based company is working in partnership with MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming, owners of Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. PartyPoker is also planning to release a completely overhauled version of its online poker room software by summer’s end which will be part of a larger strategic shift to casual players.
Details of the new software are being kept tightly under wraps as the company approaches the final testing stage for the product, but, according to reports, the new software is set to enter public release in August.
PartyPoker dominated the online poker industry in the early to mid-2000s with the site enjoying more player traffic than any other online poker room. However, in 2006, it took the momentous decision to voluntarily leave the US marketplace following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
Although that move presaged Black Friday in 2011, when the US Department of Justice clamped down on all poker sites, it nevertheless created an upheaval in the industry. PokerStars, which had elected to remain in the US grabbed more than 50% of the worldwide market share as result and, seven years later, PartyPoker is still struggling to regain ground.
The site hopes that its new software, as well as softening of poker legislation in some states, will help it re-enter the US market triumphantly. Reports indicate that the core focus of the upgrade is on making the entire online poker experience a more immersive and enjoyable one for casual, or recreational, players which will likely mean a shift away from features meant to cater to high-volume players, such as multi-tabling support and advanced lobby filters, and a shift toward “lighter” features, such as customizable graphics, profiles and integration of social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.
That would be in keeping with its recent shifts towards social gaming with its partnership with Zynga – a giant in the market. The two companies recently collaborated on the launch of real money gambling games earlier in the year, promising to bring the apps to Facebook before the year’s end.
The company may also have an edge with a recently announced settlement it reached with the state of Kentucky for $15 million.
The state had sued PartyPoker, along with several other poker sites, for offering poker to its residents when the game was illegal. The case looks to recover losses from March 25, 2005 until September 25, 2009 for losses players suffered in the state. The suit also allows an additional four and a half years for others to recover the loss, including the State or the gambler’s family and treble damages are also allowed under Kentucky’s loss recovery law.
The settlement from PartyPoker covered a 13 month period. Other sites, such as PokeStars, were in the country four times longer and could face a much bigger bill at the end.
Nevertheless, the settlement puts Bwin.party’s legal problems, at least in Kentucky, behind it. The site will also be buoyed by news that the House bill to legalise poker across the country, Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013, reached its committee stage last week.