THUNDER BAY – TECH – One of last summer’s biggest iGaming acquisitions had industry representatives going mad and economists scratching their heads – just how could Amaya Gaming, a relatively little fish; afford to acquire the online gambling giant that is PokerStars?
In a $4.9 billion purchase, Canadian online gambling operator Amaya Gaming now operates PokerStars, which plays host to some of the biggest online poker tournaments every year. The most recent, for example, drew in 50,000 players from around the world.
While 50,000 players is more than a testament to PokerStars’ ongoing success, that is not to say that Amaya Gaming does not have big plans for the brand. In fact, since December 2014, plans have already been put into motion to extend the brand’s reach even further. A little research into current online gaming trends has revealed three directions in which PokerStars could head – but what will be the most successful?
If there’s anything that this year’s quirky Super Bowl half time show proved, it’s that the event is viewed by an incredible amount of people around the world. While 119.2 million people tuned in to watch Katy Perry’s halftime show worldwide back in February, the betting element for last year’s Super Bowl produced a very similar statistic – approximately $119 million was bet in Las Vegas alone as the Seattle Seahawks took on the Denver Broncos.
Clearly, there is money to be made from sports betting, and this is something into which PokerStars has put more than a little thought. It has been announced that PokerStars will pursue sports betting this year, although legislative loopholes could prove to be an obstacle, for example, legal online gambling states in North America, of which at present, there are only three. However, with betting on events such as the UK’s Grand National also set to become available, this could prove a very profitable avenue for PokerStars.
One acquisition which PokerStars should use as a good example is that of Gamesys, whose assets were acquired by Intertain in February 2015. Gamesys currently run a number of brands catered towards a female market – for example, Jackpotjoy, an online gambling host which predominantly focuses on online bingo and is fronted by a prominent female ambassador, Barbara Windsor. Moreover, Gamesys’ in-house B2C brand, Virgin Casino, is also branching out into online bingo in an attempt to attract a more ‘female’ audience, though the appeal of online bingo is not necessarily restricted to one gender.
For PokerStars, then, their approach to attracting a female audience is somewhat a little different: they have just hired Japanese model Yuiko Matsukawa as the ambassador of the brand. While Matsukawa may be beautiful, she is also a symbol of the increasing number of female players taking to poker. Matsukawa has said she is “nervous” about playing alongside female poker champions, but is certainly “brushing up on her skills.”
Certainly, hiring Matsukawa may be instrumental in attracting a female audience, but it is also representative of PokerStars’ move into international markets, in particular, Asia. When the nine finalists in the most recent PokerStars tournament proved to be from all over the world, including Asia, staff at PokerStars realised just how big the potential in Asia is, and have hence announced that they will be branching into China and Japan. President of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour Danny McDonagh said: “The growth of poker in China has been tremendous and we are committed to support this sport throughout the region.” With fewer legislative concerns to think about than the United States, it is only fitting that PokerStars should head in this direction.
Amaya Gaming has certainly got a lot on its plate for 2015, but with the latest market data, it could just be the most profitable year on record for this ‘little fish.’