In the 72 hours following the indictment of 11 senior executives and owners of three of the biggest US-facing poker sites, their European rivals have launched respective marketing drives in an attempt to capitalise on the availability of new players.
Since the US Attorney’s Office issued a notice on Friday bringing charges against Pokerstars founder Isai Scheinberg, Full Tilt’s Ray Bitar, and nine others for alleged fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling, traffic on a number of rivals' sites has risen dramatically.
According to Pokerscout’s weekly traffic report, all three affected sites have seen their traffic drop significantly, with Full Tilt’s 48% week-on-week decline the most striking. PKR, however has seen a 21% rise (the highest from a non-US site) while PartyPoker (9%), 888Poker (5%) and the iPoker network (4%) are also on the up.
Several networks and sites not taking US customers have hastily launched promotions to target those players looking to deposit on sites other than Full Tilt, Pokerstars and the Cereus, the two-site network that contains Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, both of which are included in Friday’s indictment.
Last night, Unibet announced it would be holding its first ever €500,000 guarantee tournament, while ChiliPoker – on the iPoker network – countered what has come to be known as online poker’s “Black Friday” with its own “Purple Day” promotion, featuring 200% sign-up bonuses.
One European-based affiliate, who asked not to be named, told eGaming Review: “My inbox is getting constant messages such as 888 doubling their prize-pools, and Titan Poker offering 60% revenue shares and saying if you are a Pokerstars player you can send them a screenshot of your VIP status then you get the same level of loyalty there.
“I was surprised by the email [from Titan] because it was so obvious, but I think Pokerstars and Full Tilt have really played outside the rules of the game and now this is a very positive development for the whole affiliate system.”
He went on to suggest that, from a player’s point of view, a more carefree attitude towards funds locked up on the bigger US-facing sites could begin to reap rewards. “Many people think that playing on Pokerstars and Full Tilt is like playing Zynga poker because no one knows what the value of the chips really is,” he said.
Dominik Kofert, CEO of power affiliate PokerStrategy.com, is cautiously optimistic about the impact Friday’s news will have on the online poker market outside the US.
“The curious thing is that some of these same people used to say that – compared to some banks and payment providers – the safest place to keep money was on Stars and Tilt.”
His site refuses to take American players and runs IP blocks. Providing Pokerstars and Full Tilt can continue to run their non-US-facing sites, as is currently the case, he expects a “mini-boom” outside the US.
“The European-facing sites have launched their various promotions and I think Pokerstars will follow suit in the next few days,” he said.
“With more traffic going to those sites not taking players from the US, I expect Pokerstars and Full Tilt to divert more of their marketing spend to these markets in response.”
He added the priority for many of his players was to ensure their funds are secure, with many of them currently unable to withdraw from Pokerstars and Full Tilt.
“It is an issue of trust, and it is important that this element gets sorted out as quickly as possible,” he said.
But while European sites are seemingly showing a near-unanimous drive to capitalise on those players deserting the ‘big three’ in America, a mixed message is coming from stateside competitors.
Bodog made a mysterious return to Pokerscout's rankings with a 26% seven day rise in player numbers in the wake of Friday’s indictments, having blocked the tracking site earlier this year, while the Merge and Cake networks continue to take American players at the time of writing.
However, Victory Poker – one of the larger skins on Cake – is immediately abandoning its US focus. CEO Dan Fleyshman tweeted yesterday: “Asked the Cake Network to BLOCK US players from the Victory Poker site. They are supportive of my decision. Hope it gets regulated 1 day!”