Since the deal to purchase Full Tilt failed to materialize for Group Bernard Tapie (GBT) apparently over the insistence by the U.S. Department of Justice that players with frozen account balances on the site be reimbursed in full within 90 days, things have been rather quiet on the Tapie front.
Well, not exactly. Bernard Tapie, his son Laurent, and Prosper Masquelier, are still planning the International Stadiums Poker Tour to take place at Wembley Stadium on May 31, 2013. The idea is to have 30,000 players play poker on their laptops at the stadium, where the final 3,000 left standing will turn off their computers and conclude the tournament playing live. It is being billed as the first tournament to combine online poker with live play.
Whether this concept can be viewed as a hare-brained scheme with little chance of success or a stroke of genius that is sure to have a lasting impact on the world of poker remains to be seen. A quick scan of the ISPT website shows that 2,542 players have already signed up. I’m not totally sure how those players managed to enter already, as a click on “How To Participate” is followed by an announcement that registration is coming soon.
In any event, with more than 10 months still to go before the event kicks off, the Tapie Group has plenty of time to iron out the details. It is widely believed that GBT was planning to use their acquisition of Full Tilt to promote this ISPT event with a massive marketing scheme and a multitude of satellites for players to enter to win the buy-in to “the biggest poker tournament ever” that features a €20 million prize pool. But since the Full Tilt purchase never materialized, GBT is now lacking an online presence to promote the ISPT.
Which brings us to the Ongame Network. Why doesn’t Tapie make a bid for the online poker network? As the fifth-ranked network in player traffic according to recent PokerScout tabulations, it seems like it may be a good fit. At a reported asking price of €19.5 million, this would likely be a bargain for GBT. And there would be no lengthy negotiations with the DOJ and the hassles involved in paying back players. Tapie could have one of the top online networks in the business to heavily promote their ISPT, which is planned to be an annual event at various stadiums throughout the world.
Following Shuffle Master’s last minute decision to back out of the agreement to purchase the Ongame Network, Bwin.Party, the network owners, have announced that six companies have expressed interest in acquiring Ongame, with Zynga reportedly in the forefront. Bwin has not revealed the other entities who have queued up to offer a bid on the network. But perhaps GBT should enter the mix if they haven’t already. It could be the difference between the International Stadiums Poker Tour becoming a successful annual event, or GBT again falling short of their goal, as was the case in the Full Tilt acquisition.