When you’re talking about the online gaming industry, the pace of change is of utmost importance. It’s even more important on the poker side of the industry, which continues to change like a chameleon on acid. Over the past couple of years, the online poker ecosystem has undergone a number of alterations as networks try to nurture their product so brands stay happy and money is made. Each network has a different opinion on the best way of holding on to the cash cow of players: the net depositor.
It’s here where problems have surfaced over at Playtech’s iPoker network. As first reported by PokerFuse.com, things have now come to a head as the network’s bigger brands are pushing to have the network split in two.
It’s not public how the expected split will happen but it’s likely we’ll see Titan, bet365, Betfred and Paddy Power on one side, with the smaller operators left behind. Jonas Odman, Bodog Network VP, confirmed that if the network’s splitting in two there’s only one real reason.
“It is about big operators who are tired of sharing their net depositing players with smaller operators. This is the classic network problem that I have talked about for so long. Obviously, the iPoker system’s fines for operators bringing too many winning players have not been enough to solve the problem,” Odman told us.
The fines mentioned were brought in by iPoker over two years ago to try to limit the amount of winning players participating on the network. It got to a point where skins on the network were forced to ban winning players to evade fines levied by the Playtech-owned network. This has not worked and late last year rumour had it they were changing to a rake distribution model mirroring Ongame’s Essence model. Now they’re talking about splitting the network in half shortly after rumours emerged Ongame was doing the same.
In terms of whether it is iPoker’s decision to split the network into two, it’s interesting to note that Playtech owns skins on the network. Make of that what you will but the biggest brand on the iPoker network is Titan Poker, which, according to persistent rumours, is owned by Playtech. It suggests this is very much Playtech’s decision and not one being forced upon them by the big operators.
Getting back to the network splintering; those in the boat containing the smaller operators will be worried at the prospect of losing the cherished net depositing players. Odman confirmed that if this supply line stops, the “winning players will move” and the smaller skins that remain will have to “completely change their strategy” to keep their heads above water.
In terms of whether this is a water-tight solution, Odman added: “If it is true that both iPoker and Ongame are going to split their networks it should be clear to everyone that the industry is not entering a consolidation phase, as I wrote a year ago. However, the problem for networks without a solution to the rakeback problem will persist. Someone will be the smallest operator in the new networks too and it will be tempting for them to use rakeback to catch up, and you cannot keep splitting the networks forever.”
If iPoker chooses to make these changes, it will only be another short-term fix. Don’t be surprised to see them changing tactics yet again in 12-18 months time as they realize the recreational players are the ones they want to hold onto.