WPT ratings sag but don't despair, says Wall Street

Don't head to the casino cashier with your World Poker Tour stocks just yet, say Wall Street insiders. Despite plummeting in price, analysts are predicting that poker's worldwide popularity is encouraging for the company.

At the peak of the poker boom following 2005 merger speculation, the WPT saw its stock hit an all-time high of $29.50, but now hovers near $5.

With the WPT set to report its fourth quarter results at close today, analysts are forecasting company sales have increased 14%, with an expected loss of 3¢ per share. Losses for 2007 are pegged at 4¢ per share.

The tour's forthcoming launch of a new online poker site could change all that, however. This time around, the upgraded site will be run by the WPT and not a third party.

Given the $1 billion global online poker industry, the company could do well by its new poker room, one analyst told CNNMoney.com.

Despite being known for its popular televised poker tournaments, the WPT does make a significant chunk of change from its gaming site. The company earned $2.5 million - more than 10% of its total revenues - from Internet gambling during the first nine months last year, CNN reports.

The WPT is also brokering promising sponsorship deals with companies such as PartyGaming, Plc., in the coming years that may make up for its sagging ratings, business analysts say.

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