iGB Affiliate 43 Feb/March 2014 | Page 58

INSIGHT THE EUROPEAN ONLINE POKER MARKET NOT SUCH A FULL HOUSE Robbie Strazynski looks at the precarious state of online poker in Europe. SOMETHING’S ROTTEN in the state of Denmark, as well as a whole bunch of other European Member States these days. I don’t know how good a poker player Hamlet was, but I’m sure he would agree that the state of online poker in Europe these days is rather tragic. “What?” I hear you say. “But poker is as popular as ever! Millions and millions of people play the game all over the world – that surely includes Europe, no?” Well, I’m certain there are plenty of Europeans playing poker, but that’s just not translating into significant numbers of people anteing up online. The glory days of European online poker are long gone, and try as operators might, they’re simply not recapturing the magic and size of the player pool as during poker’s boom years. Part of the reason for this, of course, is the lingering worldwide recession. Even dedicated recreational players simply don’t have as much discretionary income free anymore for online poker. Specifically, however, there’s one prime culprit causing the ailments in European online poker, and that’s a lack of liquidity. Liquidity Whether you’re a live poker room or an online poker room, liquidity is what’s needed to survive and thrive. The more players you can count on being logged 58 iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2014 in, the better the online poker room will do. Online poker is a game wherein the house is guaranteed a profit because its revenues come in the form of hands raked and tournament fees. Ergo, the more hands raked and the more tournaments being played, the higher a room’s revenues will be. In other words, there’s a direct correlation between the number of online poker players and the revenues of any particular online poker room. When poker was booming all over the world in the early to mid-2000s, the flow of players to online poker tables was simply astounding. Naturally, the online poker euphoria swept through Europe as well. More and more online poker rooms opened up to cater to the demand. Times were good for the players, for the operators, and, of course, for affiliates, who were able to cash in with high CPA and revenue share deals. Everyone was fighting for a piece of the pie, and the pie was only growing. Then, European governments started getting hungry for tax revenues. Specifically, their greed has essentially jammed up what used to be a smoothly flowing online poker economy and broken up the entire player base into ever smaller pieces. Their complete lack of regard for the people involved in the fun and business of online poker play cannot but make one’s blood boil. United they stood; divided they’re falling Abraham Lincoln famously said that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. The saying rings incredibly true in the case of online poker in Europe. Despite efforts to forge a truly unified Europe, eliminate national borders, and come together as 20-some odd countries, apparently when it comes to online poker tax revenues, the whole ideology seems to have been thrown out of the window. Greed has reared its ugly head over the last few years, which has led to country-bycountry player ring fencing. French online poker players used to be able to take seats at the virtual tables with other players from Spain, Denmark, Italy, Holland, Finland, Spain, and other European countries. No more. National regulations have been enacted that effectively encircle each country base of poker players within its virtual borders. Go on Spaniard – play against your fellow hombres and mujeres; but “es impossible” to play against your Portuguese neighbours. One might be able to freely drive over the Iberian Peninsula borderline, but “the Euros stop here” when it comes to online poker activity. Even the UK, the long-heralded bastion of online gambling freedoms, has seen its governing bodies begin to enact rules