PokerUpdate: Why did VCPoker leave the iPoker network for Entraction in December of last year?
Victor Chandler: The decision to leave iPoker and join Entraction was down to the latter’s vision for the future, which is to return online poker to its heyday by providing a recreational player friendly network. When thinking of moving we looked at all our options, but decided that Entraction, given their ethos and plans for development, would be the best option for both VC and our players long term.
PU: What are the biggest differences you notice between the two platforms? Why is Entraction a better network for VCPoker and its players?
VC: The biggest difference is of course the liquidity with Entraction (for the time being) enjoying less liquidity than iPoker. However, this in itself is not a bad thing when the majority of Entraction’s traffic is made up of recreational players; this is in fact the kind of liquidity that is most beneficial to players over the long term. As a result, migrating to Entraction has led to an increase in the life span of the average player, which has more than doubled since moving to the platform.
PU: For years it appeared that leaving or avoiding the American market post-UIGEA was something most companies regretted considering the success of PokerStars and Full Tilt. Do you think that these companies (VCPoker included) now feel their decisions were justified?
VC: Absolutely. In light of the Full Tilt situation, the fact that we have never accepted players from the US (or any jurisdiction in which we are not licensed) gives players confidence in the Victor Chandler brand, and, together with our Gibraltar license, assures them of our integrity and intent. Secondly, our decision to refuse US action puts us in good standing for gaining the right to operate legally in the US when and if legislation is passed.
PU: Will VCPoker apply for licenses in the United States? Are you afraid only US-based interests will be granted licences as has been outlined in proposed legislation? What opportunities are there in the business-to-business and business-to-government markets for VC and others?
VC: We are certainly keeping an avid eye on developments in the US with the intention of entering into the market when it is legal to do so. However, even if licences are granted solely to local operators, there are a number of ways in which we can still be involved, from partnering with local operators to providing select services to governmental bodies.
PU: Are there any regulated, or soon-to-be-regulated, territories that VCPoker is interested in entering?
VC: We are currently concentrating on a handful of core territories where we have a historical presence and/or where we believe there is room for significant growth. Rather than enter every regulated market simply for the sake of doing so, our philosophy is to cherry pick those territories that hold the greatest potential and focus upon securing a significant portion of the market before moving onto the next one.
PU: What marketing methods are most profitable when it comes to attracting new players? What is VictorChandler doing to attract and retain players?
VC: Historically, Victor Chandler is a sports betting company and this remains true today. The majority of our poker players therefore are first and foremost sports betting customers that have moved across to poker. This is very cost effective as we don’t have to pay high CPAs to acquire regular revenue generating poker players. Our retention rates are very good (we don’t in fact have negative churn), which is a testament to our high levels of customer support and regular promotion schedule, as well as to the recreational environment on the Entraction network. We expect this to improve even further when we roll out our new loyalty program later this year.
PU: Critics claim that some networks have too many skins. It seems only the minority of licences can be generating any real value. Is the market oversaturated with networks and skins?
VC: It may seem easy to launch a poker skin but making that skin work is a totally different matter, unless it has a very unique selling point and/or a significant marketing budget. Even then, with so many established poker rooms continuing to offer high level rakeback, it is difficult for new skins to compete when they are restricted from offering the same levels of reward due to commercial arrangements with their license holders and/or by prohibitive network rules.
Skins (white labels) certainly still have a place in today’s market, but there has been a considerable amount of consolidation in this area. As much as it seems that new skins are being launched all the time, a far greater number are closing up shop.
PU: In general what does the future hold for VictorChandler and online poker? For the rest of the year and next what are three big themes to look for?
VC: The future is looking bright for VictorChandler. We have made significant investment in the sports betting side of our business, which is having a knock on effect for poker in terms of greater conversion rates. Furthermore, the purchase of Entraction by IGT back in June heralds a new era for the network and a step closer to taking online poker back to its golden years. Themes to look for: an increase in regulated markets; a decrease in the availability of high level rakeback; further consolidation and, of course, the ascendancy of Entraction into the top five.