The online poker vertical has often been under looked, with many operators focusing primarily on casino and sportsbook verticals. Over the years, there has been exponential growth in online poker, with rates peaking in 2020, when the world was at a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the closure of land-based casinos and a significant increase in popularity for online poker rooms. Despite a small return to normal, research shows that the online poker market is still growing and is expected to grow at a Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.5% to reach $237.5 billion by 2030.
To give us direct insight, we have asked Christer Larsson (CL), Group Poker Director at Olybet and Veselka Pendzhurova (VP), Affiliate Team Lead at World Poker Tour Global (WPTG) to share some of their experiences and focuses working in the online poker industry. They shared what they have seen as emerging trends and opportunities in the market, along with key learning points from their experience working in their respective roles, as well what steps their brands taking to prioritize customer engagement.
Income Access (IA): Where do you see the poker industry in five years?
CL: I believe we will continue to see growth in new markets and innovation in gamification for poker. We can clearly see that land-based Poker Festivals are booming after Covid and I think this trend will continue to be a part of the marketing mix for online operators. For Olybet, this is great. We have strong land-based brands like “Kings of Tallinn” to develop and export into new markets.
VP: Poker is a game of skill and it has its niche in the iGaming world. No matter the economic framework in the current society, poker has remained as a source of entertainment and I do not see a change coming in the next five years. At the same time, namely because poker is a game of skill and only players with a special interest are involved in it, there’s a lot of competition between the companies. It is difficult for a new brand to emerge and gain influence in the industry unless it is backed by a renowned name in the poker world. Basically, I see the existing brands getting fewer but stronger. I expect WPT® Global to gain bigger and bigger share of the player base, as we have all the needed prerequisites to dominate the poker industry – we have the World Poker Tour behind us, we are constantly working on our product and our team consists of professionals with a combined experience of over a hundred years in the field.
IA: What have you learned so far during your time working in poker?
CL: I have been in the industry for 20 years, granting me tons of experience. My focus will always be to put the active poker players’ interest first, by providing the best possible poker product, best service and always work to enhance overall our quality of operations, land based and online.
VP: The poker industry is very dynamic and you have to be flexible and eager to learn constantly in order to be able to accommodate the needs of customers and partners. Poker players are very knowledgeable and demanding clients and we, as representatives of the brand, must be on top of everything to be able to provide good service. This sphere has taught me to be diligent, hard-working, accountable and do what is right, no matter what.
IA: Online poker had a huge spike in popularity with the closure of land-based casinos in 2020. Has that success continued as things have opened again? What steps are you taking to ensure your audience stays engaged?
CL: At Olybet, we are continuously striving to cross-sell between land based and online poker. We are hosting great poker festivals at our flagship land-based casinos, and our ability to thrill and entertain players with online promotional activities at the biggest poker network will keep our audience engaged. We are also constantly looking for new markets to grow, with Lithuania opening for Olybet Poker on the GG Network in late October, as next step.
VP: Now that the restrictions were removed, we see the usual seasonality kicking in. During the summer, especially in June and July, the players love to take a break, go out, and enjoy the good weather. After that, usually starting August there is an increase in the traffic and it keeps getting better with December being the best month of the year.
Regarding the impact of the land-based casinos, we at WPT Global have a special advantage here, as we constantly run qualifiers for the World Poker Tour’s live poker games, so we can provide entertainment to both customers who prefer playing online and offline.
The online poker industry continues to become a more lucrative industry to operate in. With the game of poker having such a large social aspect to it, it is important for operators to keep their audiences engaged by offering exclusive promotions and events. Furthermore, brands must understand their audiences and be flexible in order to accommodate their needs.