IGT to turn off poker network

US slot machine giant IGT is to shut down the Entraction poker network in December, just 18 months after agreeing a deal to buy it for US$115m.

In a statement, the company said: “Change and uncertainty in European market conditions have diminished the expected returns in certain real money wagering products”, and that it was “consolidating our product development”. IGT said its emphasis would remain on its “interactive casino/slot offering, which has experienced steady growth”. The company has been busily integrating its DoubleDown social casino offering, which now also offers multiplayer poker, onto the websites of several land-based US casino groups in recent months.

The company’s decision post-acquisition to cut off a swathe of black and grey markets from the dot.com poker network – including Turkey, Canada Russia and now-regulated Spain – in order to satisfy Nevada regulators, saw the network and its licensees suffer a crippling drop-off in liquidity.

The IGT Poker network, formerly Entraction, is home to nearly 50 poker skins. The larger rooms on the network, such as 24h Poker, Victor Chandler and NoiQ – the latter two incidentally moved on from iPoker over persistent disagreements over rakeback policy – are understood to be talking to other providers regarding a move ahead of the 11 December cut-off date. Entraction also powers a parallel platform for Betsson alongside the Swedish operator’s Ongame room, while Unibet also owns a number of skins on the network. Entraction also used to provide poker for Sportingbet in markets its main poker provider GTECH G2 was uncomfortable with, such as Turkey, before the Superbahis business was sold to GVC Holdings late last year after regulatory concerns over the Turkish-language website effectively derailed Ladbrokes’ bid for Sportingbet.

Having sliced off all the grey and black markets on the network and rebranded the network under its own name in February, IGT managed in June to became one of the first two companies, the other being bitter rival Bally Technologies, to receive a licence in Nevada to provide the platform and technology for land-based casinos to offer real-money online poker within state borders.

But despite IGT’s statement that it will now “look to integrate the Entraction products into our overall set of platform offerings”, the slot machine giant has yet to name any US casino partners for online poker, and it remains to be seen if it even plans to deploy the real-money software Stateside having made the decision to close its European dot.com poker business.

The company’s chances of finding a buyer for the software at anywhere close to what they paid for it however also look slim, given the failure of bwin.party to find another buyer for Ongame after ShuffleMaster pulled out of a deal in June to buy the Stockholm-headquartered network for just €19.5m, which would have risen to €29.5m upon regulated online poker getting underway in the US. BetClic-Everest also confirmed last week it was to move its poker properties onto Playtech’s iPoker network by the end of the year, meaning its proprietary poker platform, developed and maintained by its US-based CIDC software arm, is also now surplus to requirements.

Casino Choice journalist

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