In 2014, all of a sudden, an online poker platform PokerStars distressed many of its existing customers, some of which had been loyal to it for 13 years, that is, since the founding of the company in 2001. With its headquarters based in the Isle of Man, PokerStars has dealt more than 115 billion hands over the years of its existence, with the key focus on poker with the unique rates and an excellent poker environment. So what was the reason for the PokerStars core to become unhappy with the company? As it turns, it was the change of ownership and the subsequent change in policies. In 2014, Amaya Gaming Group bought the Rational Group, the parent company of both PokerStars and its sister site Full Tilt, for $4.9 billion. The purchase has frustrated many core members as higher rates and new currency exchange fees were introduced. There have been many speculations that the Amaya takeover has put customers’ best interests behind shareholders. As a result, many existing clients moved to other websites. However, Amaya crew are quite enthusiastic about the drastic changes they are about to make.
On Friday, November 21, Amaya announced that it is launching internationally casino table games and sports betting through its PokerStars.com website, with blackjack and roulette being the first to be offered in the coming weeks. The company also said it would add sports betting and other casino games in 2015, with a finished mobile casino and online casino versions scheduled to take-off early next year.
In the press release sent out to the media on Friday, the company states that the first offerings — blackjack and roulette — would roll out on a market-by-market basis starting that month with completion expected by the end of 2014 reaching nearly half PokerStars’ current player base.
Right after that, the website will focus on the inclusion of more new elements with the launch of other popular casino games and sports bets, which is supposed to become fully available to PokerStars patrons throughout 2015. During the next year, the company also plans to increase its revenues coming from mobile players with the launch of what is announced to be “a full-featured casino on mobile and web.”
The changes did not appear unprepared for. After the acquisition of PokerStars, Amaya did a proper study on adding more features and games to the website. Right after announcing that the largest poker room is navigating away from its major format, Amaya started doing research on a Spanish market, through its Spanish website PokerStars.es, to find out whether the introduction of other online games such as blackjack and sports betting would actually work. PokerStars.es and its sister site Full Tilt piloted in launching casino games earlier in 2014, and up to now, it has been a huge success. According to data provided by the company, 30 percent of poker customers are playing casino games monthly, and 50 percent of its sister website Full Tilt users say the site is the only casino they participate at online. Amaya’s Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser affirms, “We thoroughly researched the opportunity and spent a lot of time talking to players and analyzing the behavior of our customers on PokerStars.es and Full Tilt. Those launches have been successful in reactivating dormant customers and extending the value of our existing poker customers.”
Why rebrand the existing company? Obviously, it is all about the profit and nothing else. Online gambling is getting more and more widespread in the world, therefore, the company cannot miss this great opportunity to use its existing brand and its position on the market to spread into other gaming areas such as sports wagering, online casino, and social gaming. According to Amaya’s CEO David Baazov, the spreading out of PokerStars and Full Tilt in these new dimensions could be an opportunity to get onto “a combined global market of the size of approximately $25 billion”. That would be much bigger than PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker up-to-date operations, which is about $4 billion at present.
Despite all the changes, Amaya cares about existing customers, and realizes that many of them do not wish to participate in casino and sports betting options, as they come to the site to just enjoy a game of poker. To keep these clients, Hollreiser says users will have the option of removing table games, sports betting, and even new games related ads and promotional materials from their accounts. Nothing will distract them from their main purpose and they will not even notice any changes to the poker rooms. “We are committed to extending our leadership in poker and will continue to serve the passionate online poker player, while expanding our reach into new audiences and new gaming opportunities,” Hollreiser confirms.
Thus, even though some players moved to other sites, PokerStars is planning to regain its existing players and to expand its audience by attracting new customers with table games and sports betting. Hollreiser asserted that the new products would still support the development of poker and expand the whole business. The listed stakes apparently will start at just $0.10, therefore blackjack, roulette, and other table games theoretically should attract more regulars. By expanding its offerings to include casino table games and sports betting, PokerStars hopes to not only draw new audiences, but to reactivate inactive player accounts as well.
Notice: PokerStars.com is a worldwide company that operates through its Isle of Man license. Besides that, the site holds licenses from the Belgium, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Germany, Estonia, Spain, and Italy. There have been rumors about PokerStars entry into the United States, but up to the present time, no state has welcomed PokerStars.