An online poker e-wallet providers’ rivalry is quietly brewing, and at the centre the world’s largest operator of poker sites, PokerStars, is happily playing one off against the other.
On Wednesday, Skrill (formerly Moneybookers), announced that it would be the official payment provider sponsor of the European Poker Tour (EPT) Season 10. The move serves as a clear indication that Skrill are once again strongly invested in poker.
The EPT is just one of many tours PokerStars operates, along with the Italian Poker Tour (IPT). In June, it was announced that one of Skrill’s biggest rivals, Neteller, would sponsor the first leg of the IPT which took place in San Marino between June 13th and June 17th.
The strategy is a curious one for PokerStars since sponsoring poker tournaments is usually the preserve of large online poker room. But somehow the online poker giant, a subsidiary of UK based The Rational Group, has managed to get the two largest, poker facing e-wallets involved in bidding against each other for similar tournaments.
For Skrill, it’s the second time that it has partnered with the EPT and the company says it will help support its ongoing worldwide expansion. The sponsorship will see Skrill branding in and around the tournament area at events during Season 10, along with staff at all events on hand to offer marketing promotions and assist players during the tournament.
“Skrill is delighted to be working with the European Poker Tour as its Official Payment Provider Sponsor again,” said Joe Hall, vice president of leisure and entertainment at Skrill. “The EPT is a well-respected and established brand, and this partnership will help to further strengthen our position as the leading digital wallet among poker players. We are looking forward to attending the events and interacting directly with players throughout the season.”
The EPT, too, was in high praise of Skrill. The tour’s president, Edgar Stuchly said Skrill had a long and established track record of providing easy, safe, and secure payment options, adding that “as a result [Skrill] is widely regarded as one of the most popular deposit and withdrawal methods by the online gaming community. We are pleased to be working with them again during Season 10.”
Yet only three weeks earlier, Luca Pagano, head of the Pagano Group, which runs the IPT alongside PokerStars, was singing Neteller’s praises as a “valuable global company”.
“At the same time, we are sure that this collaboration will offer the players a great advantage for their money transactions, thanks to the excellent Neteller payment account and the Net+ Prepaid MasterCard, as well various promotions which will be offered at each stage of the Italian Poker Tour,” he added.
It’s not clear from Skrill’s press release, announcing its sponsorship of the EPT, what its involvement with the tour will entail, aside from plastering the event with its branding. Nevertheless, the benefits to it are clear.
E-wallets are essential for online poker players to move money to and from their poker accounts across various poker rooms. Both Skrill and Neteller are widely popular among poker players and are a fundamental element of the poker community, offering secure and anonymous payment solutions. Both are also UK-based: Skrill is owned by Investcorp Technology Partners while Neteller’s parent company is London Stock Exchange listed OPAY.
Their involvement in poker tours is an attempt to infiltrate the online poker market at a grass roots level which is a situation PokerStars seems happy to exploit.
The payment processing industry is clearly an extremely lucrative one, given that online gaming companies must prioritize the speedy, safe and efficient transfer of funds to and from their platform. No doubt that both Skrill and Neteller fall in to this category of platform.
With that said, it’s an industry somewhat shrouded in mystery and controversy. In particular, payment processors were at the forefront of the scandalous fallout from Black Friday, with young millionaire payment entrepreneur Daniel Tzvetkoff spectacularly falling from grace and opting to testify against those indicted on Black Friday to save himself from serving jail time. Chad Elie served five months in prison after pleading guilty to “conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to operating an illegal gambling business.”