The US online poker market has always been a difficult "cherry on the cake" for all major gaming companies. Especially now when online gambling became legal in a fourth state — Pennsylvania, and four more regions are actively working for a legislation.
With this in mind, a few months ago the two main competitors — the Stars Group and GVC Holdings, began a new wave of operations in the USA. Initially, the Stars Group continued working in the USA after the UIGEA act, and PartyPoker left the market. But the Stars Group has its own strategy to conquer the US market, and they are clearly not going to give up.
What is the strategy of the PokerStars parent company in the USA?
Right now, PokerStars is only offering its services in one of the four states where online poker is legal — New Jersey. The traffic slightly exceeds PartyPoker. But even both rooms are far away from WSOP.com, and 888Poker, which are the only poker rooms working in all the states combined (this year a shared pool was created).
Now the Stars Group has focused all its efforts in Pennsylvania. This state was the last to legalize online gambling at the end of 2017 and currently, there is a competition for the market.
First, by invitation of the local regulator, the Gaming Control Board, Stars held a presentation of their business with a big focus on anti-fraud systems and bots. Also, it is known that Stars signed a cooperation agreement with the Mount Airy Casino Resort; this is one of the largest local casinos among the top-10 operators who applied for a $10 million-dollar license (including casino games, sports betting and online poker).
Both sides will benefit from such cooperation. Mount Airy will receive the world's popular software and organizational base for online games and Stars the opportunity to become a leader in the market, at least in one state.
Also, the Stars Group found a way to show Americans their product. A poker application was released for play money — PokerStars Play. This app is only available to United States and Australia citizens (another regulated market). It is clear that this is a great step for the future. Players will get familiar with the application, and in case of an opportunity to legally play for real money, they will already know the software.
What is the GVC Holdings strategy in the US market?
The strategy of making partnerships with big brick and mortar casinos seems to be common; the Stars Group decided to cooperate with Mount Airy, and PartyPoker signed a large-scale contract with MGM Resorts.
MGM Resorts is a major operator of gaming and luxury hotel business in the United States since 1986. Some very popular casinos (Bellagio, MGM Grand, The Mirage) are part of the MGM Resorts group, and in Asia recently they opened the MGM Macau. The annual revenues exceed the $10 billion dollars.
The signed contract includes a $100M dollar investment to develop the project for 25 years. GVC Holdings will provide the technical side of the project (software, website, player support, etc.) and MGM Resort will use its influence and players' base to promote the platform in the country.
We can conclude that the PartyPoker owners decided to work across the United States. If the partnership succeeds, in a few years GVC Holdings will be able to work with a shared pool and have good prospects for expanding its presence in the country, which in the future may legalize online poker.
More recently, GVC Holdings became a member of the National Council for Gambling. Its purpose is to help people suffering game addiction and develop the right attitude to gambling. GVC also announced the creation of a fund to study the online gambling problems in the country and make an assessment of their danger level. In general, they are working on a public image.
- Both companies (The Stars Group and GVC Holdings) are using already proven methods of penetrating the US market in collaboration with brick and mortar casinos.
- The Stars Group decided to pursue only the Pennsylvania market where legalization took place recently.
- GVC Holdings took a different path — work with a large company (MGM Resorts) operating across the country, preparing the path for a possible legalization in the future.
- Both companies will launch gaming platforms which include not only poker but also sports betting and casino games.
In November, USA will hold legislative elections at federal and local levels. The new congressmen and senators will have to work on creating conditions for the development of online poker in the country, and this will be intimately related to the results of the mentioned alliances. The next year results will be very important for this.
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