This past Friday, Amaya Gaming held a conference call for their shareholders following the release of their Q2 report. Several points were clarified, and Canadian poker players were given reason to be set at ease after months of growing anxiety about the effect the acquisition of Rational Group could have on PokerStars' and Full Tilt Poker's operations in the Canadian market.
To get caught up on the Amaya acquisition, a Canadian company many poker players may not have even heard of before this summer, see our coverage of the acquisition of Rational Group, our editorial responding to the rumours that this could see PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker get pulled from Canadian players, and the recent news that PokerStars dropped their branding for the upcoming Montreal Festival.
As transcribed and posted by Online Poker Report, the conference call helped clear up a few points. Details have been far from transparent throughout the acquisition process, and the only public responses to player concerns have been press releases filled with corporate-speak that didn't really tell anyone anything. Slowly, things are becoming clearer as Amaya offers small insights into their operations so that we can get a bit more understanding of the implications of this deal.
The biggest concern for us in Canada has been compliance issues now that PokerStars is owned by a publicly-traded, Canadian corporation. PokerNews Canada has maintained that there is no evidence that this would cause any sudden disruption in the poker site's Canadian operations. This latest conference call attests to that:
"Not just Quebec, but every single province in Canada has been discussed with some of them before the transaction as well. I would say from a compliance or regulatory perspective, the revenue base that’s being generated as it relates to poker is already done and approved from a compliance perspective." - David Baazov, CEO
To clarify, the operation of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker in Canada has been approved and is compliant with regulations, according to Baazov.
Another of the changes that was anticipated and has come to fruition in some part already is the turn toward more casino games. We announced one month ago that Full Tilt Poker seemed to be going through a rebranding to becoming just 'Full Tilt', a glimpse of what Amaya ownership might mean for these two poker sites.
The phrase "new verticals" has been used relentlessly in every statement Amaya makes regarding the future of the Rational Group assets. Baazov describes these as being advantageous to PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker players in three ways:
"1.) Growth in new verticals provide the ability to attract new customers, which has the potential to result in the increase in the liquidity of the poker market as well.
2.) We estimate up to half the existing active players are playing casino and/or sportsbook on other sites. Providing these verticals in the jurisdictions where they are able to be offered gives players the opportunity to combine loyalty points on a single individual platform, one they already trust.
3.) I’ve noted previously the expansion into sportsbook is targeted for 2015, and the company has already been building up this effort. We will provide further details on sportsbook in the future."
Baazov also explains that, "The company has launched casino games on Full Tilt in 2014 through its downloadable poker client. The results this far have been encouraging, though the exposure to the percentage of Rational’s player base is still quite low."
He adds, "We anticipate significantly scaling up the casino exposure to Rational’s player base."
If you are a regular on PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, expect to see plenty of marketing enticing you to take your chances on blackjack tables, roulette wheels, and slot machines in the near future.
However, "new verticals" does not just mean more casino games and a sportsbook. Baazov explains, "When we look at [Rational Group], we look at it as having 86 million consumers, not just gamblers. We look to expand into other verticals that are potentially non-gaming as well."
The other conversation that was sparked by this acquisition is the potential for Amaya to reintroduce PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to the American market where the old ownership ran into obstructions. When asked about the view Amaya has on the American market and whether New Jersey and California might see the Rational Group poker rooms return, Baazov replied, "At this time we would not make any statement on that but we’re very excited about the U.S. opportunity. California in 2015, we believe other states as well."
We will continue to update you on the developments as Amaya reveals more details of the implications of the acquisition.
* Transcript courtesy of Online Poker Report.