Bwin scores major coup

Deal agreed with major Italian online gambling group

Vienna-listed online gambling group Bwin has scored a major coup and some formidable positioning in the Italian market following an agreement to acquire the Italian group Gioco Digitale. With hopes high for an imminent and positive regulatory system in Italy the agreement is especially valuable and significant.

Closely held Gioco boasts it is Italy's first independent online gaming site and offers mainly poker, betting and skill games, but there is clearly good potential for expansion into other genres under the Bwin banner.

A timeframe for the takeover has yet to published, and the terms of the deal have not been disclosed, although some idea of value can be deduced from a report in the Italian newspaper Finanza & Mercati, which said said last week that an investor had bought 10 percent of Gioco for more than Euros 2 million. This fits with previous estimates of around Euro 90 to 100 million.

Industry observers say that the burgeoning Italian market is ripe for the sor of consolidation tha the Bwin deal represents. Gibraltar-based Party Gaming recently acquired an online poker operator, while 888 has said it is close to buying an as yet unidentified asset.

A recently passed law due to be enacted this autumn , means that poker cash games and other games of chance will be permitted in Italy in addition to sports betting and online poker tournaments, raising the profile of the market.

According to the Bwin announcement, the boards of both companies and its shareholders have agreed on principle terms for the acquisition of 100 percent of Gioco Digitale, but did state that although the acquisition was progressing, there could be no certainty that a final binding agreement on the transaction will be reached.

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