It started out as an industry with several arms. There were online casino operators, poker rooms and sportsbooks. Later bingo halls have appeared, completing the picture. Then sportsbooks have added casino gaming, poker rooms and bingo halls to their online operations, offering their players all forms of gambling they might have needed. Casinos like www.europalace.com and poker rooms like Full Tilt and PokerStars have stayed loyal to their business. And then Amaya Gaming has purchased the Rational Group, and something has started in the online gambling industry that will change it once again.
Amaya Gaming has paid over $4 billion for the biggest poker operation on the planet, the Rational Group. The company has created PokerStars as a dedicated poker room, offering cash tables for any of their players, no matter how big or small the stake, no matter how experienced or inexperienced they were. Amaya, in turn, had something bigger in mind. It started by introducing random number generator (RNG) casino games to the poker room, followed by the addition of live dealer games as well. And as a final step, it has also launched its sports betting operation under the PokerStars brand, completing the circle.
This move has given birth to a new breed of “full service” gambling operators, with more than one form of online gambling integrated into the same platform. There is a certain category of poker players who also enjoy casino games – although I don’t thing they are the majority, as poker is a game of skill and strategy, unlike casino games that are in 99% of the cases games of pure chance. The move is most likely aimed at recreational players, not poker pros or dedicated fans of the game, but it truly represents a new opportunity for PokerStars to increase its profits.
Why do I think that profits were the most important part of the change? Because casino games are generally much more profitable than poker.
Poker is a multi-player game, where the cash players bet goes into the pot, which is at the end of the hand won by one of the players. The money changes hand between the players, with the poker room only getting a small percentage of the total pot (the rake). In case of casino games, though, the profit goes right into the pockets of the casino operator. And if you take into account the fact that almost everything you can play at a casino is a game of pure chance, you can imagine how much of the players’ money flows directly into the bank accounts of the operators.
There is one last thing I would like to know: if Amaya will complete the picture by opening an online bingo hall under the PokerStars brand…