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An announcement was made yesterday that Nevada-based global gaming supplier Shuffle Master plans to purchase the Ongame Network from bwin.party for €19.5 million. The deal anticipates the legalization of online poker in the US, as the agreement contains a clause stating bwin.party will receive an additional €10 million if US poker legislation passes within 5 years of the deal’s closing. The purchase is to be concluded within 9 months of this announcement. Rumors were already making the rounds about the acquisition after Shuffle Master applied for a Nevada internet gambling license in the past few weeks. Shuffle Master provides casinos worldwide with equipment such as automatic shuffling machines, roulette chip sorters, proprietary table games as well as electronic gaming machines.

This latest development adds to the list of brick-and-mortar gaming companies in the US making deals with online poker sites, such as Caesar’s partnership with 888, bwin.party’s arragements with MGM and Boyd, ChiliGaming with the Golden Nugget, as well as Ladbrokes acquiring 65% of stock in Las Vegas company Stadium Technology. Businesses are clearly anticipating online poker legislation to pass in the near future, and are preparing themselves to grab their slice of what they see as one of the most profitable markets in the world.

Shuffle Master’s CEO says that the Ongame Network makes a great fit with their company’s B2B (Business-to-Business) orientation: “I am confident that Ongame will fit seamlessly into our ongoing interactive initiatives of delivering our renowned brands to online gaming operators, partner web sites, social networks and mobile platforms. Poker is a natural fit for our table-centric online offerings and our many jurisdictional licenses present a compelling opportunity for our current and future online customers.”

bwin’s own poker games are not expected to stay with the new Ongame Network (currently 5th in the world), and since bwin’s games make up for a large portion of Ongame’s traffic, it remains to be seen how Ongame fares without them. Ongame’s managing director Peter Bertilsson said about the deal, “We believe that our experience and expertise in the European market is a natural fit with Shuffle Master’s considerable commitment and history in developing innovative games and products for land based operators. I am confident that together, our organizations are going to be able to develop the very best in new and innovative solutions for the iGaming market.”