Shopping its esports business, as well
Allied Esports Entertainment has announced the sale of the World Poker Tour to Element Partners, LLC. Both companies anticipate a quick turnaround, expecting the deal to close in late January or early February.
$10m will come from WPT tournament entry fees
Element is paying Allied Esports $78.25m for the World Poker Tour and its assets, consisting primarily of $68.25m in cash. The remaining $10m will come from WPT tournament entry fees on “Element-owned or licensed gaming platforms.” Allied Esports will receive 5% of said fees over the course of three years, up to a ceiling of $10m.
Allied Esports also noted in Tuesday’s announcement that it has received interest in its core esports business and may sell that, as well, though not necessarily to Element Partners. No potential buyers have made offers and there are no negotiations in progress.
The news has boosted shares of Allied Esports about 16% in midday trading.
Fifth home for the WPT
This is just one of several times the World Poker Tour has changed hands. Founded in 2002 by Steve Lipscomb, the WPT started under the umbrella of WPT Enterprises. WPTE sold the Tour to PartyGaming in November 2009 for $12.3m. PartyGaming and bwin merged in 2011, creating bwin.Party Digital Entertainment.
The World Poker Tour then entered into a licensing deal with Ourgame in late 2014 to extend its brand awareness into Asia. Ourgame acquired the WPT from bwin.party in June 2015 for $35m.
controlled by WPT co-founder and Poker Hall of Famer Lyle Berman
In December 2018, Ourgame sold the World Poker Tour and Allied Esports Entertainment to a SPAC, Black Ridge Acquisition Corp, for $150m. Black Ridge was controlled by WPT co-founder and Poker Hall of Famer Lyle Berman. The company renamed itself to Allied Esports Entertainment and began trading on NASDAQ under the ticker AESE.
Ourgame CEO Frank Ng left to take the same role with Allied Esports.
World Poker Tour returning to live
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the poker world on its head, just as it has most industries. There has not been a live World Poker Tour event in almost a year; the last to be completed was WPT Rolling Thunder in early March.
In fact, three WPT events from early 2020 – WPT Gardens Poker Championship, the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open, and the WPT L.A. Poker Classic – are still in progress. Allied Esports mixed poker with its esports facilities by delaying the final tables of some World Poker Tour events and holding them a few weeks later at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas. The first of those final tables was in 2019. Six more were scheduled for 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were all postponed or canceled. The three aforementioned tournaments had reached their final tables and were waiting to reconvene at the Luxor when the pandemic shut the WPT down.
Despite virtually every COVID-19 metric in the US sitting at or near all-time highs, the World Poker Tour feels it is ready to return to live poker. Preliminary events of the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida have been underway since last week and the $3,500 No-Limit Hold’em Championship begins Friday.