Amaya acquired DFS operator Victiv last month and previewed its intention to eventually rebrand the outfit as StarsDraft. Now, on the same day that Tom Brady learned he’d be suiting up for the Patriots when the NFL season kicks off next Thursday, Victiv players learned they’d now be picking NFL lineups on StarsDraft.
StarsDraft has reassured players that Victiv’s original management will continue to operate the site but the site is “in the process of integrating the operational expertise of Amaya/PokerStars through many areas of the business.” Players can’t yet login to StarsDraft using their PokerStars login, but a “single sign-on functionality” is in the works that will allow “all previous PokerStars players” an easy path to fantasy action.
Like the main DFS operators, StarsDraft doesn’t accept players from the five states – Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Washington – that have declared DFS to be a tool of Beelzebub. But StarsDraft also won’t accept new deposits from Michigan, where only the day before the state gaming regulator had declared DFS to be illegal. Existing Michigan players have been given a 120-day grace period to play out or withdraw their account balances.
Interestingly, StarsDraft also isn’t accepting new deposits from Canada. Amaya’s justification for this step is a little less clear, as Canada has issued no opinions regarding the legality of DFS. But real-money sports betting is reserved for the provincial lottery monopolies and Amaya may simply be treading extra carefully in order not to jeopardize its shot at being awarded an online gambling license in Quebec.
Amaya has said it doesn’t intend to aggressively promote its new DFS product to compete with the sector’s big boys, which is a good thing, because the latest iSpot.tv rankings says DraftKings spent $17.3m on TV ads in the past seven days, second only to Warner Bros. among all advertisers.
Amaya is probably wise to keep its powder dry until the DFS market demonstrates that it can turn a profit, but its fiscal conservatism may not end there. Some StarsDraft players have noted that the site has dramatically reduced Victiv’s initial deposit bonuses, while others are complaining that the rake has gone up 1.25% since Amaya took over.
Poker players also complained following Amaya’s takeover of PokerStars, which brought a flurry of cost-cutting moves, including similar reductions in deposit bonuses and rake increases, retroactively altering affiliate deals, changing margins on currency exchange rates and, most recently, a less generous VIP reward program. Only time will tell is PokerStars past is StarsDraft prologue.