When online gambling exploded, many heavy names in the live casino industry though the world was ending. The most vocal enemy of Internet operators, the American magnate Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Sands network carried out a huge lobby campaign in the USA against remote gambling, succeeding in blocking most of the US online operators’ expansion.
However, even if live games and online ones seem to be at each other’s throats, reality turned out to be completely different, and the best example comes from one of the “juniors” of the gambling industry: poker.
Live and online poker have proven not only that they get along well, but that they raise each other’s potentials, the groups of players in the two areas intersecting massively and the two enemies succeeding to develop into a symbiosis unexpected by most. And the fact that online games fuel live ones with clients – and the other way around – is actually explainable. Many of those who become fans of the game, enter the poker area through one door and end up trying them all. Thousands and tens of thousands of live poker players have become acquainted with Texas Hold’em on the Internet first, and then they migrated towards live poker festivals, enhancing the clientèle of land-based operators.
In Romania, an example of such a symbiosis is illustrated by PokerFest Romania, the operator which has been organizing large live poker festivals for seven years, in collaboration with the most important online poker rooms authorized in our country. And Sorin Constantinescu, the CEO of the organization, is a live example of this collaboration, as he is also the manager of a live casino, the President of the Casino Association, but also an advisor, collaborator and business partner to the online operators functioning on our territory.
Despite the initial predictions of many who were wrongfully panicking, the grand online poker rooms, such as PokerStars, 888poker, Unibet Poker or NetBet Poker, have found this collaboration to be an excellent promotion launching ramp for their own businesses among the Romanian poker enthusiasts. And the online qualification campaigns for the live events are the engine of this cohabitation: the players play insipid amounts and play at home for live tickets, with which they have been going to the PokerFest events in the country or abroad, for seven years now. In exchange for this, the live operator offers access to a great player base, promotion within the festivals’ locations and a good public image for the online rooms.
“When you get a competitor on the street, it’s best to not create impediments, as this is the only way you create a bridge”, observed Sorin Constantinescu, the man at the center of the collaboration between these two apparently different worlds. “That’s why, even if we earned our living from live gambling for 20 years, when online rooms first appeared, we saw this as a development opportunity, and not as a threat. Even if, at first, we were met with resistance by most people, time proved me right, and now, everyone sees what was obvious: that these two gambling territories support each other”.
“On the other hand, it is clear that the online global migration of many businesses is an incontestable and unavoidable fact. However, people will never give up on socializing, and here we find the secret of the gambling industry, and especially that of poker. If, in other fields, especially commerce, the online is threatening to suffocate the land based businesses, that will never happen in the gambling field”, estimates Constantinescu.
The company he runs has organized poker festivals with no less than three online operators this year alone, in less than four months of the 2019 season: NetBet, Unibet and 888. The first five festivals of the year have already concluded with five successful collaborations, and the sixth event shall be carried out under the 888poker aegis, in May, with a series of live tournaments having an EUR 150,000 Main Event in guaranteed prizes at its core, with a EUR 550 fee. The primary tournament is fueled by a series of online satellites offered by 888poker which offer game tickets within the live event, each Wednesday until the 13th of May, with ridiculously small investments, starting from 5 dollars, and offering the chance of final prizes worth tens of thousands of euros. Under these circumstances, it is obvious why the number of poker players is growing and the game is evolving, for the benefit of both parties.
In conclusion, we have a market on which collaboration is more profitable than competition, just as this becomes more and more obvious in most fields, in the new era of digital technology.