Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment is one of the biggest online gambling companies in existence. It was formed following the merger of Bwin Interactive Entertainment and PartyGaming.
These two companies, both of which were publicly traded, each operated gambling sites that were among the most popular on the web. They merged in 2011 to create what is now an absolute giant in the online gambling world.
On this page, you’ll find information on the history of both Bwin and PartyGaming. We looked at how each company got started and how they grew to become major players in the industry. We have also covered details of their merger.
Bwin was effectively formed in 1997, although it was initially known as betandwin. It started out small, like many of the early gambling operators, with just 12 employees. One year after the company began, its first gambling site was launched. The focus at the time was on sports betting, and that remains a key part of the business today.
The company experienced a great deal of early success, and in 2000 they launched an initial public offering on the Vienna Stock Exchange, raising in excess of €50 million. The following year they acquired another bookmaking firm, Simon Bold (Gibraltar).
Operations were moved to Gibraltar, a location that was becoming increasingly popular with online gambling companies.
Another big move in 2001 was the addition of online casino games to their betting site. In 2002, the company introduced the first online live sports betting platform, allowing customers to place bets on sporting events while they were taking place. This is something that most betting sites now offer and has had a huge impact on the popularity of online betting.
Acquisitions were an important part of betandwin’s growth strategy, and one of the most significant was made in 2005.
The purchase of the poker network Ongame was a clear statement that the company was serious about poker.
This came a little more than one year after betandwin had started to offer poker games on its site for the first time.
By 2006, the company felt that the name betandwin was no longer suitable. This was a gambling site that was about much more than just betting, and so it was decided that a new name should be chosen. As a result the Bwin brand was born, to better reflect the assortment of gambling activities that the company offered.
Other key moments in the history of Bwin include offering live streaming of major sports events (2007), the acquisition of Italian poker site Gioco Digitale (2009), and becoming the first site to be offered a French gaming license (2010).
Throughout the years the company has been very active in sponsorships, putting their name to a number of sporting events and teams including soccer giants Real Madrid and AC Milan.
The history of PartyGaming can be traced back to 1997. This is when Ruth Parasol started to develop a network of online gambling sites that formed the iGlobalMedia group. These sites were successful and after sustained growth the name of the group was changed to PartyGaming.
Along with Parasol, the other major shareholders were her husband Russ DeLeon, Anurag Dikshit (recruited to write software for the company), and Vikrant Bhargava (recruited for his marketing expertise).
During the early days of the company, some of their online games were tested by the well-respected casino statistician Michael Shackleford. Based on the results of his trial, he concluded that the games weren’t fair.
The company acknowledged that the games favored the house too much but stated that it was down to software errors rather than any deliberate manipulation. This was one of the main motivations behind them developing their own software instead of using a third party’s.
In 2001, the group launched its flagship site, PartyPoker, having recognized the significant potential for online poker. It was a major success and quickly became one of the largest poker sites on the web.
They entered a number of partnerships with other operators which allowed them to create “skins” of the PartyPoker software. This meant that players at a number of different sites all used the same software and played on the same tables, creating one of the first online poker networks.
The software itself was popular with players, and the fact that it was shared across a number of sites helped to increase the player pool. This meant there were always games running throughout the day and night.
This in turn made the network even more attractive to players. After prolonged success, PartyGaming started to move away from the skins model. They achieved this through a combination of acquisitions and settlement agreements.
In 2005, a decision was made to take the company public and PartyGaming was floated on the London Stock Exchange. The four owners sold 23% of their combined shareholding. Based on the initial price offering the company was valued at just over $8 billion and within just a month the share price rose significantly.
The company was now valued at over $12 billion and had clearly cemented itself as a major player in the online gambling industry.
In October of 2006, a new piece of legislation was passed in the United States; the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The US government was cracking down on online gambling and PartyGaming was one of a number of companies that suffered.
Over three quarters of their revenue came from US players but, as a public company, they had to stop dealing with their American customers.
Share prices in PartyGaming fell dramatically, the number of players in their poker games dropped off, and they clearly had to start focusing on other markets instead of the US.
The company responded accordingly and with the advent of PartyCasino, PartyBets, PartyGammon, and PartyBingo they were no longer so reliant on poker revenues. The UIGEA had a negative impact without a doubt, but they managed to survive it.
In 2009, PartyGaming made a deal with the US Department of Justice, admitting the targeting of US citizens before the UIGEA had been passed. No prosecutions were made, but the company agreed on a settlement of over $100 million.
By settling the issue PartyGaming put themselves in a position where it would be possible for them to re-enter the US market in the future if and when regulation of the online poker industry took place.
The Bwin & PartyGaming Merger
Rumors of a possible merger between Bwin and PartyGaming started towards the end of 2009. The rumors continued for nearly a year until the two companies finally released a statement in 2010, confirming that they were planning to merge.
Shareholders were sent details of the proposals and in January, 2011 the merger was approved. It was then completed in March of that year, creating Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment.
Most of the senior management in place at the time of the merger were kept on staff.
Although now one company, the existing brands were still to be used independently.
Players could still play poker at PartyPoker.com, or place bets at Bwin.com, or play casino games at PartyCasino.com. Currently, it’s expected that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.