It's been a difficult year for the live tournament scene during the era of COVID-19 and the coronavirus pandemic turning the poker world and casino realm upside down. The World Poker Tour will be under new ownership cannot help but wonder how the coronavirus pandemic sort of forced the action on this one because the WPT had one of their best years because of the online gambling and online poker element. The pandemic forced many gaming companies to pivot and focus on online revenue streams and the ones that relied solely on live brick and mortar events were crushed. partypoker's involvement with the World Poker Tour allowed WPT live events to take place in a safe environment online at partypoker. According to a company report, signups were boosted by 61% in late 2020 due to the pandemic. Without live poker or casinos, poker players fired up online sites.
"Despite the many challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the WPT business has delivered substantial, impactful results, specifically through its online platforms and services, and has made meaningful contributions for the company," said Allied CEO Frank Ng said via a recent news release.
The WPT Online Championship was a huge success for its $100 million guaranteed prize pool. Phillip Mighall won the Main Event for $1.7 million.
Allied eSports Entertainment, publicly traded at AESE, agreed to sell the World Poker Tour to Element Partners for $78.25 million. The deal for the WPT includes cash up front for $68,250,000 plus $10 million to be paid out over the next three years via 5% of all entry fees.
"I want to thank Frank Ng and the entire AESE management team for their support in allowing WPT to flourish during this period," said WPT CEO Adam Pliska. "My management team and I are excited about this next chapter and the tremendous new opportunities for the WPT brand and business."
“2020 was an exceptional year for WPT's online and interactive services pillars of its business model,” the company's news release notes.
The World Poker Tour came to fruition in 2002 as the brainchild of TV producer Steve Lipscomb and businessman/high-stakes pro Lyle Berman. The WPT flourished thanks to a broadcast deal with the Travel Channel. Right place, right time. The WPT arrived at the cusp of the online poker boom. Wednesday nights were must-see TV thanks to the WPT on the Travel Channel. One of the juiciest times to play online poker back then was on Wednesday nights before and after airings of the WPT episodes.
In the last two decades, an estimated $1 billion had been awarded in prize money via WPT-branded events and tournaments. That's a heck a of lot of money changing hands via poker.
The WPT's first sale happened in 2009 when PartyGaming (aka partypoker) took control for a modest price worth 12.3 million. While partypoker owned the WPT, it merged forces with bwin gaming to form bwin.party. In 2016, bwin.party sold the WPT to Ourgame International Holdings LTD, a Chinese social gaming company, for $35 million in cash.
In 2018, Lyle Berman wanted back into the business and bought the WPT from Ourgame for $50 million. Berman's new company was initially known as the Black Ridge Acquisition Corporation, but then rebranded as Allied Esports Entertainment.
Allied bought the WPT for $50 million and sold it for $78 million. Not too shabby, eh? Allied is rumored to be shedding their eSports assets too.
Not much is known about the new company, Element, that purchased the WPT.
The WPT Montreal Online is currently running on partypoker. Two live WPT events are slated including the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the SHR in Hollywood, Florida and the WPT Venetian in March.