10 Mins Read
In this edition of our PokerGuru Gaming Report we bring for you the most relevant and latest updates from the domestic and international gaming sector.
We begin this edition with news of gaming operator Gamepind receiving fresh funds to the tune of ₹110 Crores from Paytm founder One97 Communications and AGTech Holdings Ltd. for expanding their business operations in India.
The spotlight then moves over to The Stars Group (TSG) where CEO Rafi Ashkenazi has revealed that PokerStars India website is still in ‘soft launch’ stage and marketing activities would start by Q4 of this year. Meanwhile, PokerStars has entered in a tie-up with Mount Airy Casino Resort to launch an entire gamut of online gambling products in Pennsylvania including online poker and sports betting.
Next up, we bring you news about gambling regulators in New Jersey who have initiated a crackdown on Bovada and other illegal gambling sites operating offshore, while France recorded a growth in online poker, with the second quarterly report of French gambling regulator ARJEL indicating healthy growth in revenue from online poker.
We wrap up this report with news on Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City moving its poker room to accommodate a new sports book.
Mobile gaming platform, Gamepind has just received a big infusion, to the tune of ₹110 Crores ($16 Million) from its two founders, One97 Communications – the parent company of India’s largest e-wallet firm Paytm and Hong-Kong based AGTech Holdings Ltd.
The investment is for Gamepind to expand its presence in the Indian gaming market. As part of the fund raising, Gamepind Entertainment has also appointed former Paytm executive, Sudhanshu Gupta as its Chief Operating Officer (COO).
Gamepind’s launch was announced in July, 2017 through a joint venture between Paytm and AGTech with the goal to offer innovative mobile games and user engagement activities targeting Indian consumers.
“AGTech continues to firmly believe in the vast potential of Gamepind and its ability to capture the fast growing mobile games market opportunity in India,” said GM Cheng, director at Gamepind Entertainment. “Going forward, AGTech will continue to strengthen our business in India, while seeking to continue globalising our business in other selected overseas markets,” he added.
The operator formally launched in January 2018 and apart from games, it also functions as a marketing and promotional platform for merchants to engage with mobile shoppers and casual gamers.
AGTech holds 45% stake while Paytm owns the remaining 55%.
Gupta was part of the core team that developed the Paytm marketplace and his coming onboard Gamepind is expected to help the gaming operator expand its presence in India.
“With the penetration of smartphones and mobile internet, gaming is poised to become a multi-billion-dollar opportunity in India and I feel very excited to be a part of this journey. We will invest in building a platform to offer exciting and rewarding games for our users.” Gupta said, talking about the latest investment.
Gupta’s role will be to oversee all Gamepind operations including the entire array of casual and social games ranging from sports such as cricket and football, arcade and adventure.
PokerStars India is still in its nascent stage and the company has not yet started full-fledged marketing and promoting activities. Divulging this information, CEO of PokerStars’ parent company, The Stars Group (TSG) – Rafi Ashkenazi revealed that the PokerStars India offering was not completely ready and many aspects needed to be worked on.
“It’s very early days for India. To an extent I can say that the product is not really ready for the market,” Ashkenazi said. “There are few elements that we still need to — few gaps that we still need to close before we start our marketing campaign, probably in Q4, more towards Q4 of this year. So, if you can refer India currently as a soft launch with increased focus on this market probably starting in Q4,” he added.
Meanwhile, TSG’s revenue for online poker for the second financial quarter of 2018 showed a 6.9% increase, the company’s best performance since 2014, in this quarter. According to TSG’s second quarter financial results published on Monday, the company reported revenue of $217 Million for the quarter compared to $202.9 Million in Q2 of 2017 and the fourth consecutive quarter of high growth in online poker revenue.
The figures, according to Ashkenazi, recognize the benefits of the company’s focus on high value players and the stars rewards program, as also the shared liquidity pool in Southern Europe, between Portugal, France and Spain. In the first financial quarter, the company’s online poker segment registered a 12% yearly growth.
For its India operations, TSG has partnered with India-based lottery conglomerate Sugal & Damani Group. The TSG licensed its trademark and intellectual property rights to Sachiko Gaming Pvt Ltd that is owned, operated and handled by the latter, and a ring-fenced India facing poker website officially started operations on April 17, 2018.
After successfully venturing into online poker and casino gaming in New Jersey, PokerStars has now gearing up for entry in Pennsylvania. With its parent firm, The Stars Group (TSG) entering a partnership with Pennsylvania-based casino, Mount Airy Casino Resort, PokerStars is officially going to offer a full suite of online gambling products, including sports betting and online poker in the state.
“We’re excited to take this next step as The Stars Group looks to broaden its presence in the United States,” senior VP (Strategy & Operations) TSG USA, Matt Primeaux stated, confirming the news.
“In partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort, we believe we’re well positioned to capitalize on opportunities in the Commonwealth by bringing our world leading offerings to Pennsylvania players,”Primeaux added.
While Mount Airy had already petitioned state regulators for permission to offer online casino and poker games, it wasn’t clear till now, who the casino resort would partner with.
VP (Marketing & Gaming) Mount Airy, Vincent Jordan explained that the Casino resort was a leading name in Pennsylvania’s gaming industry and the partnership with TSG would help diversify casino offerings.
“Introducing internet gaming through The Stars Group will provide compelling opportunities for our customers, particularly our younger customers, who are ready to experience the next gaming challenge,” Jordan said.
While Pennsylvania is currently not part of the multi-state shared player pool agreement for New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada as under the Multi State Internet Gaming Association (MSTGA), PokerStars’ entry in the state could change that, in the near future.
With the U.S. state of New Jersey opening doors to legal sports betting, the state’s regulators have now riveted their attention to illegal gambling websites. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has initiated steps to crack down on Bovada and other illegal gambling operations.
The division has regulated online gambling in the state since 2013. Director of DGE, David Rebuck said that such illegal operations would be denied licensure and driven out of the state.
“If we find out that those who provide goods and services to the legal market … are engaged in contracts or underhanded work to have their products provided to the illegal market, there will be significant consequences,” he said.
In his statement, Rebuck specifically cited Bovada, the gaming portal that was estimated at one point to be the third-largest online poker site.
While federal pressure had forced sites like partypoker to pull out of the U.S. market, Bovada defiantly continued. After DGE’s cease and desist orders in 2014 to unlicensed operators and affiliates, Bovada agreed to stop taking new account registrations from NJ customers, but continued to serve its existing base in the state. Though Bovada relinquished its gaming license at one point, it continues to serve a large user base in the country. With Rebuck renewing the attack on Bovada, the portal is bound to land in a legal soup.
Online poker is registering rapid growth in France with the five existing poker operators currently operational in the country posting growth in revenue for the sixth consecutive quarter.
Underlining this fact, French gambling regulator ARJEL, in its second-quarterly report of the year has revealed that online poker revenue reached €129 million ($150 million) in the first half of 2018, registering a 6% increase from the revenue figures for the same quarter in 2017.
While cash game revenue rose by 14%, tournament revenue witnessed a 12% hike. Also, revenue from both the first and second financial quarters were highest since 2013, the ARJEL report stated.
France is among the countries that have high tax rates for poker proceeds. After a poor show over the past few years when a majority of its 22 licensed operators shut shop, leaving only Winamax, PokerStars France, partypoker France, Bwin France and PMU France in the fray, the strong growth results bid well for the country’s poker industry.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of legal sports betting, a number of casinos in New Jersey are rushing to enter the online sports betting arena. Joining the race is the Atlantic City based casino, Golden Nugget that has moved its ‘The Poker Room’ to possibly accommodate a new sports book.
The casino closed doors on The Poker Room on August 1, and subsequently moved it from the third to fourth floor. According to the Golden Nugget website, it aimed to refurbish the poker room to “improve the customer experience.”
Evidently, the casino management decided to keep the planned new sports betting area closer to the main casino areas rather than The Poker Room and may set it up in the third floor where The Poker Room operated earlier. When queried on social media on the same, the casino management acknowledged with the reply,“You got it!”
Meanwhile in its new location, The Poker Room sports a brand new look, excellent tables and muted, two-tone décor. The room opened its doors last weekend and its plush interiors have drawn a favorable response from casino regulars.
While the casino’s plans in terms of mobile sports betting offering are still not clear, the shift of the poker room clearly indicates something big coming up at Golden Nugget.