PartyPoker and Philadelphia 76ers Fold on Sponsorship Deal, WSOP Cans DraftKings

Posted on October 23rd, 2015 by Daniel Ryder
PartyPoker and the Philadelphia 76ers are going their separate ways less than two years after reaching a sponsorship agreement for branding in the Wells Fargo Center arena. (Image: John George/sportsbusinessdaily.com)

PartyPoker and the Philadelphia 76ers are going their separate ways less than two years after reaching a sponsorship agreement for branding in the Wells Fargo Center arena. (Image: John George/sportsbusinessdaily.com)

PartyPoker made history in February 2014 when it signed a sponsorship deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the first time an online gambling company and NBA franchise teamed up. But less than two years later, the bwin.party subsidiary and struggling basketball squad are parting ways.

The two sides declined to provide reasons for the split, 76ers CEO Scott O’Neill only saying that the multiyear agreement featured certain “triggers” allowing for “adjustments based on market opportunity.”

GVC Holdings recently acquired bwin.party and its affiliates including PartyPoker. Its new owner could be the so-called “trigger” in ending the partnership, GVC hinting at the time of the purchase that it would look to cut costs to increase fiscal revenues for shareholders.

Bad Fold?

PartyPoker’s sponsoring of an NBA team in a state without legalized online poker might come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with Philly’s close proximity to New Jersey. Separated by only the Delaware River, Philadelphia sports teams are wildly popular among south New Jerseyans.

No state more than Pennsylvania seems poised to join New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware in authorizing online poker in 2016, which would have made PartyPoker’s presence at the Wells Fargo Center arena even more appropriate.

If it was indeed PartyPoker that called off the sponsorship pact, the fold seems to be a rather mysterious one considering the pending legislative efforts in Harrisburg.

WSOP Boots DraftKings

It’s been a rough month for DFS operators, specifically the two market leaders DraftKings and FanDuel.

Scandal erupted in late September when a DraftKings employee beat out 229,884 entries in FanDuel’s $25 Sunday Million contest to win $350,000. Allegations of cheating arose, and regardless of an independent investigation finding no evidence that the win was deceitful, the bad press continues to hamper the DFS platforms.

DraftKings, also ironically a sponsor of the 76ers, has been a staple of branding at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) over the last two years. However, that successful relationship is being put on hold after regulators in Nevada declared daily fantasy contests to be in violation of its current interactive gaming laws.

“In light of last week’s news in Nevada, DraftKings asked us to cease any sponsorship activities around the remaining few WSOP events of the year and we complied,” WSOP representatives told PocketFives’ Dan Cypra.

Poker’s most-watched event, the WSOP Main Event November Nine, will commence on November 8. More than a million viewers tuned in for last year’s final table.

DraftKings and FanDuel have both inundated television sets across America in 2015, but their visibility is certainly being pulled back. The NCAA has blocked all daily fantasy advertising from its championship events including commercials moving forward.

Responding to the public scrutiny, FanDuel launched an online petition this week asking its customers to make their voices heard.

“If you love playing fantasy sports and want to keep playing, sign our petition today,” the form reads. “We need you to stand with us to show that millions of fans believe fantasy sports should remain legal and accessible to all.”

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