The global online poker industry is on a downswing, and it doesn’t look like things will be changing any time soon. At least that’s the general consensus after PokerScout released its 2016 Q1 traffic report.
Keeping tabs on the number of cash game players anteing up on a daily basis, PokerScout found that traffic had not only decreased by 1.2 percent during Q1, but has been doing so steadily over the last three years.
According to the site’s stats, the seven-day occupied seat average has fallen from 56,768 in (April) 2013 to 38,464 at the start of Q2 2016. To put it another way, the average number of players anteing up online has dropped by 32.24 percent over the last three years. That’s a number that no one can be too happy about, except for possibly Sheldon Adelson.
Aside from regulation and taxation strangling operators in countries such as France and Italy, one of the main reasons for the decline in poker traffic is the movement of players away from just pure poker.
Thanks to an increase in sports betting and casino access (platforms now use Omni-channel software to allow easier transitions between gaming options), modern iGamers are now more willing to try things beyond poker. The trend has its upside, though.
As PokerStars has shifted its marketing stance and brought in sports icons like soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to expose its brand to new audiences, there has been some positive movement in the last few months. The site has managed to stay strong with a seven-day cash game average of 16,500, despite a recession in the market as a whole.
As most online players know by now, most of the major Internet poker sites have been reinventing themselves by shifting the focus away from pro and grinder rewards back onto incentives to lure new and amateur, aka recreational, players back into the fold.
It’s a move that is generally bearing fruit. For example, partypoker has seen its Spin and Go Hero games put the brakes on what was previously a major downswing. Offering a similar lottery-style dynamic to PokerStars’ Spin and Go games, partypoker’s variant helped traffic levels stick right around the 6,100 mark in recent weeks.
Another bright spot in the latest round-up of traffic stats is the upswing in fortunes for the MPN Network. After welcoming 3D poker site PKR to its ranks back in March, the network has seen its traffic jump by 32 percent since the start of the year.
Overall, however, the latest figures seem to suggest that online poker as a lone entity doesn’t offer a viable business model for operators any more.
Although poker purists have rallied against recent changes from the likes of PokerStars (which has cut VIP benefits for high raking players), it seems that sites need to not only appeal to casual players, but offer other betting options to draw in a wider audience.
While this may not sit well with some, the most likely outcome is that online poker sites will add an increasing number of additional betting options in the coming years as they strive to attract new demographics and greater numbers of players.