To hear the Head of Poker at BetMGM tell it, the operator has several things working to its advantage as it competes with the likes of PokerStars and GGPoker.
Sure, those sites attract players from all over the world and operate in several gray markets. They all have large databases of players to draw from when they do enter regulated markets, such as the case in Ontario.
But in an exclusive podcast interview with pokerfuse, Director of Poker Luke Staudenmaier said BetMGM is poised for success against the competition for several reasons — it can leverage brick-and-mortar facilities in its growth plans, and it has a strong presence in the online casino and sports betting verticals.
US Poker is “All Upside” Compared to Europe
The most important thing is going to be the expansion of player pools in terms of more states, more states joining [the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA)] — because then you’re able to offer new products. Staudenmaier worked for PokerStars for seven years before coming to BetMGM. He decided to leave Europe after it became clear that it was getting progressively more challenging for operators like PokerStars to conduct their business.
“There’s probably more opportunity in the US than the rest of the world market, where regulations are generally making it harder for operators,” Staudenmaier said. He concedes that stateside “is moving a bit slow for poker, but it’s all upside.
“There’s going to be more markets in the future, whether it takes a short or long time. [Operators] are not going to be wrestling with regulations in, let’s say, Germany, the Netherlands, and so on.”
Staudenmaier added that, in broad terms, he couldn’t think of anything harmful that could vex online poker markets in the US over the next three to five years.
“It’s hard to think of something negative because we know that shared liquidity is going to expand, even if it’s slow,” he said. “We know that there isn’t going to be legislation that says, for example, players can only wager three cents in a hand in a cash game, or whatever it happens to be. It’s all upside.
“The most important thing is going to be the expansion of player pools in terms of more states, more states joining [the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA)] — because then you’re able to offer new products.”
No Operator is Too Big to Catch Up To
in the US, the playing field is much more level, and you’re free to try different things without an enormous risk or an outsized investment to try to catch up. Staudenmaier appeared to agree with the sentiment that online poker operators once focused on having robust products in the online casino and sports betting verticals to attract poker players. That changed when big companies like PokerStars, which were “poker first” operators, came along.
But he said today that some operators, like BetMGM, are returning to the previous way of thinking.
“Poker is a boutique business with potential,” he told pokerfuse. He added, “poker can be a direct acquisition product because it’s a peer-to-peer skill-based game. It can allow for different messaging, and different advertising that brings in players.
“Consider that there is no US operator that is enormous — no operator is impossible to catch like it would be if you were starting from scratch in Europe. It’s very, very difficult to change course in that circumstance. But in the US, the playing field is much more level, and you’re free to try different things without an enormous risk or an outsized investment to try to catch up.”
Staudenmaier added that online casinos attract players to online poker and vice versa. But having a retail presence is even better, he said.
“If you have branding and access to your product on a [brick-and-mortar] property, it’s going to help. Aligning brands allows you to cut through some of the problems with getting players to try online poker.
“The more that you have a land-based presence and a virtuous cycle between digital and land-based [play], you can cut through a bit of skepticism and ease players on their journey a bit more.”
Listen to the full episode of the pokerfuse Podcast with special guest Luke Staudenmaier.