Earlier this month, online gaming giant Amaya, with online gaming licenses in 17 jurisdictions around the world, announced new dates for its live Festival tour with a focus on the Latin American market.
On the same day, offshore online poker network Bodog, which focuses almost exclusively on markets that most operators avoid, announced that it would return to more than a dozen markets across Central and South America.
Festival Fills with LAPT Events
PokerStars’ new Festival brand, which saw its debut last November in New Jersey and had a successful second stop in London last month, will next visit Rozvadov in the Czech Republic in March.
Following that, two stops in South America have been announced—one in Chile, the other in Uruguay. Also announced this week on the Festival tour are two stops in Asia (South Korea and Manila) and a fifth in Marbella, Spain.
The Festival tour is an amalgamation of various tours that PokerStars sponsored last year. Both the South American stops were in the Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT) in 2016, as was Panama, which has already been confirmed as a destination for a larger Championship event next month with more than $600,000 in guaranteed prize money.
The Asia-Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) also stopped in both Korea and Manila last year, though this year the Korea event will be hosted in a new resort in Incheon rather than in Seoul as seen in previous years. Last year, Marbella hosted a stop that combined both the “Estrellas” Spanish tour and the UKIPT.
So while these stops are not new, it shows where PokerStars is focusing their efforts. While further events will be announced later in the year, it seems clear now that there will be a lot fewer PokerStars-sponsored events than last year.
For example, there are currently no stops announced in Italy or France for 2017; traditionally there are entire tours (the IPT and the FPS) each with three to five stops in a calendar year.
By comparison, the majority of events hosted in the LAPT in 2016 already have confirmed stops under the new brands this year. The focus on Latin America seems clear.
Bodog’s Surprise Expansion
According to affiliates focused on the offshore US market, the black market online poker leader Bodog has announced a surprise return to 15 countries, all in the Americas.
There are currently three skins on the Bodog Poker Network. Ignition—previously known as Bovada—operates exclusively in many states the United States, with a license from the much maligned jurisdiction of Kahnawake. A separate skin operates exclusively in Canada, confusingly on the Bodog.EU domain. The Bodog88 site offers its services in China.
According to the statement, this small set of countries is set to expand greatly on February 15. Online poker, casino and sports betting will return to practically all of South America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, “Columbia [sic],” Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Small Central American countries are also listed.
The decision is surprising given the network’s propensity to withdraw from a market where they would compete with the majority of international operators. It withdrew from much of Europe in 2012 then shut the skin entirely soon after. Bodog88 launched in a variety of jurisdictions, then closed them off one by one until only China was left.
What market opportunity Bodog sees in South America is unclear. While each country in South America is somewhere on the “grey” spectrum—there is no official licensing for offshore operators in any country on the continent yet—signs are pointing to liberalization and regulation, with efforts underway in Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.
Operators are fairly free to offer real money live tournaments, as demonstrated by PokerStars, which clearly sees the market opportunity and future growth potential of legal poker across the Latin American continent.
Bodog’s South American efforts will be competing not just the major international dot-com operators, but also some new Latin American-only offerings with deep roots in local markets. Aconcagua Poker in particular focuses exclusively on this market, and only allows manual signups through an “agent” based system.
However, this network did recently withdraw from Argentina following new tax laws, so maybe Bodog is identifying a gap in the market there for a less scrupulous operator.
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