The annual International Gaming Awards (IGA) took place in London last week, where members of the live and online gambling industry were honored for their superior production throughout 2014. Not surprisingly, PokerStars was once again bestowed with the title of Online Poker Operator of the Year; a title they’ve received for the last three years in a row.
Among the nominees competing against PokerStars for the 2015 Best Online Poker Operator award was the brand’s very own sister-site, Full Tilt. The fact that both were nominated speaks wonders for the sites’ parent company, Rational Group (owned by Amaya Gaming), which was also honored with the award for Socially Responsible Operator of the Year.
“We are extremely proud and honored that PokerStars won Online Poker Operator of the Year and that Rational Group won Socially Responsible Operator of the Year, both in tough, competitive fields,” said an enthusiastic Lee Jones, Director of Poker Communications for PokerStars, in his acceptance speech. “Personally speaking, I am perhaps most gratified by the responsible gaming award; it recognizes our long-standing and ongoing commitment to providing a safe and responsible environment for our players.”
2014 was truly a momentous year for the world’s largest online poker company. PokerStars introduced its new Spin N Go, lottery style tournament format—which coincidentally struck a million dollar payout three times in January 2015—and celebrated a major milestone by hosting its one billionth tournament. PokerStars also forged into new territory by receiving licenses to operate in Bulgaria and the UK, adding to its current list of jurisdictional licenses that already include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
Two other gaming giants who are associated with PokerStars also received accolades at the 2015 IGA. London’s Hippodrome Casino, which has a dedicated poker room called PokerStars Live, was bestowed the award for best Casino Operator Europe. City of Dreams Manila, another casino that boasts a PokerStars Live poker room, took home the award for Casino/Integrated Resort of the Year.
PokerStars was established in 2001 by an Israeli family by the name of Scheinberg. Five years later, right around the time the US government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), PokerStars surpassed Party Poker as the number one, most trafficked online poker site in the world. They’ve maintained that position ever since, despite the subsequent loss of American player accounts in 2011.
By 2009, PokerStars was setting world records. In December of that year, the online poker room hosted a special $1 buy-in tournament with the hopes of drawing the largest crowd of any poker tournament in history. They easily succeeded when 149,196 players registered, subsequently breaking that record twice since then with 200k and 225k entries in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
In 2014, the Scheinberg family sold Rational Group, parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt, to Amaya Gaming for $4.9 billion. In doing so, PokerStars was no longer under the black cloud of founder Isai Scheinberg, who remains a fugitive from the US Department of Justice in relation to the federal indictments of Black Friday. The move also catapulted Amaya to the title of the world’s largest publicly traded gaming company.
Despite being just one of dozens of respected online poker networks, PokerStars is so popular that it has no true rivals. According to PokerScout, PokerStars is attracting an average of 20,500 cash game players over a 7 day period. The second highest traffic rating belongs to 888Poker with a 2,600 player average; a respectable number to be sure, but a fraction of the traffic entertained by PokerStars.