Las Vegas firm buying online poker operator

Las Vegas-based casino supplier Shuffle Master Inc. said Monday it’s buying online poker engine operator Ongame Network Ltd. from Services (Austria) GmbH for about $25.7 million.

Ongame, based in Gibraltar, says that as one of the largest business-to-business operators in its industry it reaches more than 20 million customers in more than 25 markets. Ongame says it has an international network licensed in Gibraltar as well as regional networks in Italy and France.

It has online and mobile poker applications such as cellphone poker. It works with such names in the online gaming world as Betfair, Unibet, bwin, Sportingbet, Betsson, Betsafe, EurosportBet, Paf, Bet24 and Gioco Digitale.

Shuffle Master said the deal is consistent with its plan to be a business-to-business online gaming provider in regulated markets — and not to serve online gamblers directly.

Serving consumers directly could put Shuffle Master into competition with some of its bricks-and-mortar casino customers as they migrate to online gaming.

Shuffle Master said it may pay an extra $13.2 million for the business should legalized, real-money online poker be established in the United States within five years.

"Poker is a natural fit for our table-centric online offerings and our many jurisdictional licenses present a compelling opportunity for our current and future online customers," CEO Gavin Isaacs said in a statement.

"We are very focused on creating greater value for our current and future customers and, as a result, our objective is to make Ongame the most comprehensive and competitive poker engine in the marketplace," added Louis Castle, chief strategy officer.

Shuffle Master on Monday separately reported a higher profit for its first fiscal quarter of 2012 ended Jan. 31.

The company, which sells and leases casino equipment like card shufflers and electronic gaming machines, said revenue in the quarter of $56 million was up from $43.8 million in the year-ago quarter.

The profit of $7.6 million or 14 cents per share was up from $4.8 million or 9 cents in the same quarter of 2011.

The company said its installed base of leased card shufflers in casinos around the world grew 11 percent on a year-over-year basis to 8,025 shufflers.