EU Online Poker Market Took Big Leaps Forward in 2018
Throughout much of the first decade of the 21st century, poker was one of the most popular games to play online. In the middle of that decade, poker’s popularity soared to heights that put the game in the history books. That poker boom was primarily spurred by Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event victory, courtesy of a PokerStars satellite tournament online.
Online poker sites popped up everywhere in the years that followed. Every sports betting site established an online poker vertical, and every player logged on to at least one of them to live their version of the poker dream. There was merchandise to win, fame to claim, tournament travel packages to win, and millions of dollars on the line. Poker was on every computer and television, and everyone could dream of becoming a poker pro.
However, the US government made a move that began to change it all. In 2006, the United States Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which was subsequently signed into law. Its language was murky, but it was threatening enough to force several online poker operators – most notably PartyPoker – out of the US market.
Several years later, on a day that became known as Black Friday, the US Department of Justice seized the domains of PokerStars, Full Tilt, UltimateBet, and Absolute Poker on April 15, 2011. The indictments of online poker executives and the shutdown of insolvent companies created a snowball effect that changed the poker world forever.
The poker boom was over. And a new era of nation-based poker markets began.
Pieces of the Poker Pie
Governments in some nations around the world began to see internet poker as an industry that only benefited the companies themselves, and governments were not receiving what they viewed as their fair share of the revenues.
Italy was one of the first countries to call for a ban on dot-com poker sites and require operators to obtain licensing from the Italian government to service only Italian players. This gave the Italian regulator, AAMS (Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stado), the ability to control what type of gambling was offered in the country and the revenue derived from it.
Other countries followed suit. France, Spain, and Portugal were just a few of the countries in Europe that took the same approach, establishing regimes within their borders to keep players from competing on dot-com poker sites.
While all of these countries believed they were grabbing their pieces of the poker pie, they neglected to realize that online poker thrived because of the liquidity, the ability for players around the world to compete at the same tables, which allowed sites to offer bigger cash games, tournaments, satellites, etc. When countries separated their players from the rest of the world, the liquidity disappeared, and so did much of the appeal created by the poker boom.
Regulators in Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal began to see the benefits of liquidity. And they figured out a way to share players – thereby enhancing the player pools and opportunities – while also keeping the revenue from sites registered within their countries.
In the summer of 2017, after several years of talks among the four regulators, their representatives gathered in Rome to sign an agreement to share online poker action.
The process moved quickly for Portugal, which had only one poker site – PokerStars – registered in its market. In fact, PokerStars was the only site available in all four countries, and it also had experience with the technology necessary to establish a shared poker network. Spain and France launched their combined PokerStars tables in the first quarter of 2018, and Portugal soon joined as well.
From there, it took only a few months for PartyPoker to share its French and Spanish poker players, and Winamax did the same shortly thereafter. Most recently, the iPoker network of sites that includes BetClic, Betfair, Unibet, and Casino Barcelona, received its final approval to share poker online in France and Spain and will launch before the end of 2018.
As the European market grows, players in those countries can return to the tables with more tournaments, bigger guarantees, and more opportunities to play the kind of lucrative games that were available during the poker boom.
The growth of the shared EU online poker market is limited due to the number of players in those countries. And without the cooperation of Italy, which is now working toward more online gaming bans due to a change in governmental views, there is a cap as to how big the market can become.
Countries like Switzerland and Sweden are opening their markets to licensing and could soon have regulated markets that are solid and seeking growth. That growth is available in the European partnership that is already established and showing what shared poker liquidity can do. Further growth lies in new markets joining that partnership.
Veriff Appoints Hubert Behaghel as VP of Engineering
Veriff, a global identity verification provider, has appointed Hubert Behaghel as its Vice President of Engineering.
As the latest addition to Veriff’s leadership team, Behaghel will spearhead the company’s engineering strategy to elevate its competitive expertise through industrialisation and scalability, and will also streamline the engineering team’s efforts. Hubert Behaghel is based in Veriff’s Barcelona office in Spain.
Prior to joining Veriff, Behaghel was Typeform’s first-ever VP of Engineering, where he oversaw a streamlined expansion of the company’s engineering team, grew its global presence and introduced a range of new functions while reducing expenses. Under his leadership, Typeform’s infrastructure became GDPR-compliant, multi-regional, and he opened the company’s Latin American engineering hub.
“The identity crisis online has reached a breaking point. That’s where Veriff comes in. I have been convinced since early on that I would be able to learn from Veriff’s team while also bringing my own expertise. It’s important to me as I want to help the Veriff Engineering community find its voice, both internally and externally,” said Behaghel.
Behaghel brings to Veriff nearly two decades of experience with industry titans such as Amazon, Marks and Spencer and Sky, where he led significant expansion in their respective engineering divisions while introducing new initiatives and refining existing ones. At Sky, as the company’s Head of Technology, Behaghel more than tripled the engineering team’s size, scaled the Discovery platform by tens of millions of global users and helped launch NBCU’s Peacock streaming service. Hubert Behaghel holds a Master of Science degree from IMT Atlantique in France.
“As the global need for identity verification increases day by day, Hubert’s proven skill set with scaling engineering capabilities will be invaluable to Veriff’s continued growth. We’re very excited to welcome him aboard, and to witness his impact on product delivery,” Janer Gorohhov, CPO and co-founder of Veriff, said.
Stanleybet Announces Rebranding, New Nuances for the Historic Gaming Brand in Europe
After 65 years since its establishment, the Stanleybet Group has implemented a restyling of the existing brand, opening to the temporary inclusion of new colours, to honour historical events. A decision that maintains the group’s ideals, while giving the brand dynamism and adaptability.
The Stanleybet Group, after 65 years of history, announces the restyling for the entire range of brands associated with the Group. The business started out as a bookmaker in 1958, and over the years it evolved in a consolidated group, currently also active in the creation and development of virtual games and gaming platforms. By relaunching its brand, Stanleybet is now looking to the future of the global market, where the Group has always played a lead role, while balancing tradition and innovation, with enthusiasm and dynamism.
Giovanni Garrisi, CEO of the Group, said: “Since we first considered the rebranding, the goal has been to continue to embody the Group’s core values – Strength, Dynamism and Balance – while responding to the changes in the industry and, more generally, to new styles and trends used to convey a message.”
Ivan Fantasia, Head of Brand, Marketing & Communications for the Stanleybet Group, said: “My team and I evaluated various options, ranging from more cautious choices to more audacious ones. We ultimately decided to carefully restyle the brand that was already in use, with a final outcome that less accustomed eyes might not even detect initially. The token will stand in for the actual change. The diagonal ‘cut’ that divides the token symbolises the balance between tradition and innovation. The slope of that cut has now been set at 18 degrees, along with the slope of the Stanleybet trademark letters. In addition to redefining visual equilibrium, the number 18° also has significant symbolic resonance, both in terms of the gambling’s age restriction and the positive connotations it has in other numerologies, such as strength, luck, and prosperity. Additionally, the colour of the small section of the token – and with it, occasionally, also the background of the logo itself – will adopt a theme or different colours on our social media channels, which will be dedicated to the celebration of an event of historic significance, whether it be sporting, cultural, or customary.”
Sportradar Wins Major Bid for ATP Rights
Sportradar has been selected as the successful bidder for the global ATP data and betting streaming rights starting 2024. It follows an extensive RFP process led by Tennis Data Innovations (TDI).
Sportradar is a world leading sports technology company, providing immersive experiences for sports fans and bettors worldwide. The company has been a supplier of official ATP Tour and Challenger Tour secondary data feeds since the start of 2022 and boasts a roster of partnerships spanning professional sports.
The RFP process was initiated by TDI in January 2023 and saw five bidders submit detailed proposals across multiple rounds, for a six-year rights cycle beginning in 2024. The process took to market rights that have grown significantly in value over more than a decade. The process followed the setup in 2020 of TDI as a specialist joint venture vehicle of ATP and ATP Media to oversee innovation, development and commercial management of all data and betting streaming products for the ATP Tour and ATP Challenger Tour.
Sportradar’s commitment to product innovation for the downstream market and unrivalled development in advanced technologies such as computer vision and AI, in addition to its industry leading integrity services, were key considerations in the selection process.
David Lampitt, CEO of TDI, said: “We are grateful to all the bidders who showed such commitment to our content throughout the selection process. Sportradar has been chosen as the best partner to deliver against our growth ambitions due to their combination of product capabilities, global reach and an innovative commercial model that preserved our ability to share in the continued growth of this market.
“Since the establishment of TDI, our mission has been clear – to create the most engaging data & streaming products and services for existing tennis fans and bring new fans to the game. If we get this right, we will deliver great returns for the sport. The competitive nature of this process, as well as the compelling successful bid from Sportradar, reflects the incredible value of ATP content. We look forward to forging a successful partnership together.”
Carsten Koerl, CEO of Sportradar, said: “We are delighted that TDI has selected Sportradar as the successful bidder to support the enormous growth of the sport of tennis. The capabilities and global scale of our offerings will provide betting operators innovative, best-in-class products and tech savvy tennis fans a richer, more immersive experience that only Sportradar can deliver. Our expertise in developing advanced technologies, including computer vision and AI which create advanced analytics and data visualization, will drive new, compelling ways for fans to engage with tennis, while also safeguarding and upholding its integrity.”
TDI and Sportradar will now work to agree and finalise contractual terms in preparation for the new rights cycle, starting from January 1, 2024.
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