Big Pot Alert: Allied Esports Entertainment Sells World Poker Tour for $78 Million

Written By Martin Harris on January 19, 2021 - Last Updated on February 19, 2021
WPT Sells for $78M, BetMGM Changes Course

Over the course of many years co-hosting the World Poker Tour, the late, great Mike Sexton always signed each show off with a familiar line.

“May all of your cards be live, and may all of your pots be monsters,” said Sexton.

On Tuesday came news that a new owner has purchased the WPT. With a price tag of $78,250,000, the pot for this deal is kind of a monster.

‘Privately-held investment vehicle’ Element Partners acquires WPT

According to the deal announcement, Allied Esports Entertainment, Inc. has entered an agreement with Element Partners, LLC allowing Element to acquire Allied’s “poker-related business and assets, including the entities comprising the World Poker Tour.”

Not much is known about Element Partners. The announcement describes Element as “a privately-held investment vehicle.”

PlayPennsylvania sister site OnlinePokerReport reached out to the WPT to ask about the buyer, although received no further information. “Element will not be answering any questions at this time,” added the WPT.

The agreement stipulates Element pay $68.25 million up front. Element must also provide Allied a “revenue share of 5% of WPT-branded tournament entry fees on Element-owned or licensed gaming platform” worth up to $10 million.

Element must pay that revenue share within three years of the deal closing, likely to happen by late January or early February. Allied’s shareholders still need to sign off, after which regulatory approvals must be secured and other closing conditions met.

The announcement goes on to describe Allied Esports Entertainment’s interest in exploring a possible sale of its esports business as well.

There is no buyer yet. But once one is found and that sale takes place, Allied intends to continue as a publicly traded holding company and pursue “opportunities in online entertainment, including but not limited to, real money gaming and other gaming sectors.”

An amicable parting for Allied Esports Entertainment and the WPT

First launched in 2002, the WPT and its popular television show quickly became a key factor helping ignite the “poker boom” of the mid-2000s.

The live tour continued to thrive through 17 full seasons and into an 18th. The tour has circled the globe, including visits to Pennsylvania’s Parx Casino in Bensalem and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. However starting in March 2020 live events had to be postponed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even so, online events hosted by partypoker over the last nine months have proven successful for the WPT. A highlight was the WPT Online Championships series last fall during which players won over $100 million.

ClubWPT, the WPT’s online subscription platform, has also experienced a recent increase in registrations and revenue. The WPT television show continues to attract significant audiences as well. The show airs on the Fox Sports Network and is available via multiple online platforms.

In the announcement, Allied CEO Frank Ng acknowledged “the many challenges” posed by the pandemic over the last year. Ng stressed, however, that “through its online platforms and services” the WPT has nonetheless still been able to make “meaningful contributions” for Allied.

For the WPT’s part, CEO Adam Pliska thanked Ng and Allied “for its support in allowing WPT to flourish during this period.” Pliska expressed enthusiasm about “this next chapter and the tremendous new opportunities” for the WPT going forward with Element Partners.

The World Poker Tour has been sold multiple times over the last dozen years.

In 2009, acquired WPT Enterprises, then in 2015 sold it to Ourgame International Holdings Ltd. Then in 2018 the Black Ridge Acquisition Corp. purchased the WPT and Allied Esports International, combining the companies thereafter as Allied Esports Entertainment.

MGM nixes Entain acquisition after repeated bids

In other industry news from Tuesday, MGM Resorts International announced it would no longer be pursuing its effort to acquire UK-based gambling company Entain.

Entain had rejected two previous bids from MGM. MGM further cited “limited recent engagement” between the companies as prompting them to withdraw their interest.

Entain owns a number of popular brands in the UK, including bwin, Ladbrokes, Eurobet, and Sportingbet. It also owns partypoker, the platform where recent WPT’s online events have taken place.

One question arising from the failure of the deal concerns the fate of the two firms’ joint venture, BetMGM. However MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle insists that BetMGM will continue to be “a key priority.”

“We believe that BetMGM has established itself as a top three leader in its markets,” said Hornbuckle. “We remain committed to working with Entain to ensure its strong momentum continues as it expects to be operational in 20 states by the end of 2021.”

Pennsylvania is one of the states BetMGM Poker hopes to enter in early 2021.

Martin Harris Avatar
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Martin Harris

Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. In 2019, his book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books.

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