Three months ago, the new proprietors of PokerStars (Amaya Gaming) did something the previous owners (the Scheinbergs) vowed never to do, introducing casino games to the online poker client. In September, blackjack and roulette tables were integrated into PokerStars.es, the Spanish arm of the world’s largest online poker room. Yesterday, those games were pulled from the client, and while the company rationalized the move as temporary compliance with regulators, industry experts aren’t so sure.
The managers of PokerStars.es called it a “minor technical issue” wherein regulators require online blackjack games to include detailed hand histories to be available within the software. Players must be able to access the hand histories directly.
For some unexplained reason, that option is no longer available, thus PokerStars pulled the casino games from its Spanish client. At least, that was the official announcement from the online poker operator when the games were first removed. Analysts, however, are speculating a deeper root to the equation.
Some are wondering why PokerStars would go so far as to disengage the entire online casino platform, rather than issuing a simple update. That has led to speculations that PokerStars’ decision to install an online casino platform did not quite go as well as they initially expected. If that’s the case, the operator might be pulling its casino games long enough to reevaluate the situation.
When PokerStars originally chose to incorporate a casino platform into its immensely popular online poker client, the core logic was to sustain player retention. While Spanish online poker players were flocking to the operator in droves, those same players were leaving the site to fulfill their casino entertainment needs. Therefore PokerStars felt that introducing a mix of internet poker and casino games would keep members on the site longer.
Gino Appiotti, President of the Southern European division of PokerStars, explicated the decision at that time, saying: “We know that many of our customers are enjoying online casino games on competing platforms and our offering will enhance their experience with PokerStars and provide a safe, trusted and convenient way for them to be entertained.”
After just three months of providing blackjack and roulette tables, though, it’s become apparent that PokerStars Casino has not lived up to its performance expectations. Not only has the casino division drawn minimal interest from the Spanish iGaming community, traffic for the online poker division has plunged 20% in the second half of 2014.
Could it be that PokerStars’ reputation is dwindling in the eyes of the poker playing public after introducing casino games to its virtual gaming client? Surely Vicky Coren Mitchell would agree with that statement. The former PokerStars Pro admitted that she severed her contract with the world’s leading poker site due to the simple fact that she does not support online casino gambling.
Coren Mitchell feels that online poker is a game of skill, thereby deserves its rightful place in the global iGaming sector. However, she believes that casino gambling poses much more of a hazard to society, and did not feel comfortable endorsing a brand that offered games of chance alongside poker.
Whether PokerStars’ truly intends to update the casino platform to comply with regulators and reintroduce it onto the Spanish online poker client, or the speculations of analysts are correct, is yet to be seen. Knowing how rapidly PokerStars programmers historically work to resolve issues with the software, it should only take a few weeks at best to get an answer.