Article published on November 15, 2013

Disney Nixes Online Slot Themes

By: Harper Whitefield

It would seem that the Walt Disney Company is in a precarious spot. Or at least they were.

You see, there were very few companies that had an anti-gambling stance that was as outwardly obvious as Disney. After all, you only needed to look around to see that Disney did not have any casino-hotels complexes, and that the cruise lines they were involved with did not house casino gambling. In fact, the company was rather active in trying to prevent the expansion of legalized gambling in Florida, where it has a very sizable chunk of its operation.

This was violated to a certain extent on a second-hand level. No, Mickey Mouse has never become a part of the casino gambling world, but there is a very prominent presence of the familiar Marvel brands on slot games. In fact, Playtech, one of the top online casino software companies, has developed an entire line of "Marvel slots," which feature many of the characters who are part of the Marvel portfolio.

Well, that is going to come to an end.

How did Disney get involved in this in the first place? Well, the company made a purchase of Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for $4.64 billion; the companies had been doing business with each for quite a while, particularly with certain film partnerships. One could be relatively certain that online slot games were not a principal subject of discussion. But at some point in time they became important enough for the big company to make a move. Obviously there were licensing agreements that were made by Marvel for slot games before the absorption by Disney. Marvel did not find itself with enough of an image conundrum to make that a problem for them. But there were also licensing deals made AFTER the purchase, and so in effect, characters that were now owned by Disney were serving as the basis for a slot game theme. There wouldn't appear to be much they could do about stopping the existing deals, but they are going to put a halt to new deals.

The reason is simple: from a political standpoint, they are embarrassing. You see, there aren't many outfits as image-conscious as Disney, and they are very careful to protect the brand that is regarded as family-friendly in connection to the theme parks in Lake Buena Vista, FL (outside Orlando) and Anaheim. And toward that end, they have invested money with anti-gambling ads, in consideration of the fact that the subject of Las Vegas-style casinos in the state is going to become a matter for the Florida legislature to ponder.

In terms of the official position on the issue, the statement that came from Marvel indicates that the company "discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements as part of its integration with Disney." The key word, one supposes, is "renew," which means that anything that had been grandfathered in will be allowed to expire. In turn, that means Playtech or any other software provider will see limited life for their branded slot games with Marvel.

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