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Operators move quickly to pick up Full Tilt customers

Full Tilt customers might not have been able to access their funds, but they have had all manner of poker brands throwing themselves at them in the meantime.


oker operators have been falling over themselves to fill the vacuum left by

Full Tilt after the company got its licence suspended by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) at the end of June. Firms have been scram- bling to pick up the Full Tilt players who have been unable to access the website by offering them increasingly lucrative deals as the land-grab for their custom intensified. Firms such as Titan

Poker, which upped the deposit bonus to 200 per cent and improved the bonus redemption rate, Par- tyPoker removed rake on its multi-table tournaments, while Paddy Power launched a ‘Green Card’ loyalty scheme for which Full Tilt ‘Black Card’ holders were automatically eligible.

Meanwhile Victor Chan- dler offered new account holders free rolls that could win them 20,000 euro in

prizes. Andy Horne, head of poker at Victor Chandler, commented: “It’s been a tough week for online poker players but Victor Chandler is here to lend a helping hand with tons of free money for former Full Tilt players who sign up in July.” Ladbrokes Poker was quick to announce that it had seen a 100 per cent jump in player acquisition in the week following Full Tilt Poker’s licence suspension. The firm also pointed out that it has never taken bets from players in the USA, and will continue to ‘only


Visitors to the Full Tilt site are currently met with the message ‘We apologise but the system is currently down’, which as understatements go is up there with the best of them and again doesn’t help the firm’s credibility. However, the sorry mess has also tainted those associated with the issue, especially the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC), whose regulations have been shown up in comparison with those from the Isle of Man. With an unfulfilled promise of a public hearing over Full Tilt another black mark against the regulator, the AGCC need to ensure that the Full Tilt saga doesn’t leave its reputation with irreparable damage.

operate in territories legally’. The firm’s Naomi Thrower commented: “The poker world has been turned on its head in recent weeks and players are no longer confident where to play. We are delighted that many of them are turning to Ladbrokes as they recog- nise that not only is their money 100 per cent safe, it is also a fun and friendly place to play poker.” Indeed, it is the fact that

Full Tilt customers can’t access their money that has led to fears about the future of the company and it




licence suspension. Poker- stars, one of the fellow poker brands, quickly and efficiently refunded its US customers once the Depart- ment of Justice returned control of its website. As an Isle of Man licensee, Poker- stars was required to ringfence its customers’ funds away from its busi- ness accounts. There are fears that Full Tilt did not have such safeguards, which are not required under an Alderney licence, and no longer has the funds to reimburse customers with the money from their accounts. However, the AGCC was concerned enough to suspend Full Tilt’s licence in order to conduct a full investigation, with its

Customer centricity is key

The challenges brought about by new operating landscapes - from a regulatory and technological perspective - came to the fore at the World Gaming Executive Summit 2011. Henry Birch, CEO of William Hill Online, explained why the industry must strive to keep the customer its number-one priority in 2011.


We at William Hill made the decision to withdraw from France’s online gaming market and not obtain a licence because we felt that we couldn’t actu- ally make money with such high taxation and product restriction. The French basically prohibited casino gaming. I think they have been influenced by the fact that potentially more than half of the online gambling market in France at the moment is actually grey or illegal, with French punters betting on those sites rather than betting on licensed sites. Hopefully, one of the

growing themes is that pro- hibition, product restric- tion or high taxation lead to a large grey or black market. Social media and mobile gaming is a fantastic new distribution channel.

4 BettingBusinessInteractive • AUGUST 2011

However, one observation I have made is that social media is very much mass media, whereas online gam- bling is still very much a niche activity. To give an example, Zynga has 35m people playing its poker product each month. We, as one of the largest operators, have one million people playing across all of our products in the same time- frame.

I don’t think you can extrapolate from social media into hard gambling. Gambling will remain a niche activity, and I think the only form of gambling

that could be classified as a mass participation product is lottery. I think it’s an opportunity, but I don’t nec- essarily think it follows that because Zynga have 35m people playing poker for fun that they are all going to turn to real money players over night.

As an industry, I agree that we haven’t harnessed social media properly yet, and we are probably not customer-centric enough. We have a long way to go. Facebook provides an enor- mous opportunity in terms of accessing traffic and in terms of learning about how

to build communities, but I’m not convinced that people are going to want to be doing hard gambling via their Facebook pages. However, in terms of a general theme as an indus- try I think we need to pay more attention to what customers want and be more customer-centric. Facebook, fundamentally, could be a source of traffic in terms of advertising and hopefully being able to embed some kind of product in there, but I don’t see it becoming a fully blown gambling des- tination.”

actions followed the week after by French regulator ARJEL, and AGCC execu- tive director André Wilse- nach announced a public hearing which he said ‘demonstrates our willing- ness to act transparently’. However, the public hearing never really got off the ground, with the only new revelation being that Full Tilt also owes AGCC £250,000 in licence fees, and an announcement that the hearing was to be adjourned to a later date and in private was met with a chorus of boos from those attending. With the new 15 September deadline for a private hearing with the AGCC, Full Tilt has a very short period in which to put its house in order.

edbet Gaming has acquired Heypoker, a gaming business focused on Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, in a deal that Redbet CEO Jorgen Anders- son has described as an ‘important step in our expan- sion plans’.

Redbet has purchased gaming site and its customer base with approximately 37,000 regis- tered customers. Hey- offers a range of gaming services, including poker, casino and betting and generated a gross profit of around SEK2.7m (£250,000) for the first quarter this year, of which poker represented the largest part.

Andersson commented: “Redbet’s growth strategy is based on both organic growth and acquisitions. The acqui- sition of Heypoker strength- ens Redbet’s business and accelerates our growth in selected markets. Heypoker represents an important step in our expansion plans, with the objective to grow in Scan- dinavia and Eastern Europe. We have acquired two other businesses earlier this year, i4poker and DoubleCard- rooms. i4poker had its main focus in Eastern Europe, whereas DoubleCardrooms was targeted at Scandinavia.” Redbet intends to main- tain the Heypoker brand and develop the business with a number of members of the Heypoker team staying on to operate the business. Andersson said the firm was such a good fit for Redbet as it is established on the Ongame poker network. He explained: “Through Hey- poker, the Redbet Group has strengthened its position within the Ongame poker network. We already had a presence in the Ongame network through Whitebet, one of the Redbet Group’s brands.”

Despite this Andersson is

aware that the growing Redbet empire is using an increasingly wide range of suppliers. “We are continu- ously consolidating and opti- mising our portfolio of suppliers in order to take advantage of synergies across our brands,” he added. The acquisition is paid partly in cash and partly with shares in Redbet Holding AB. Andersson suggested there could be more deals on the horizon: “We are continu- ously seeking growth oppor- tunities and we are open for additional acquisitions if there is a fit with our existing businesses and if the terms are right.”

expands with Heypoker purchase

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