April Fools Day is upon us, but the decline of player traffic in the online poker industry is not a joke.
At least the drop last week was only 1%, almost a welcome sight considering the previous two weeks were 3% and 4%, respectively. We’ve now seen seven straight weeks of less action on the cash tables and a 15% fall from the end of Q1 last year.
Players at Bovada in the U.S. underwent a bit of a scare when some could not log on and it was at first believed that Internet service provider Comcast was perhaps blocking access to the site. This turned out to be erroneous and the problem was merely a technical glitch.
PokerScout reports that Bodog/Bovada saw 1% fewer players, but still managed to move up a notch in the rankings to no. 7. That knocked PokerStars.es down to eighth place, the only movement for the week among the top ten poker rooms and networks.
Third place in the global market continues to be shared by the iPoker Network and PartyPoker, as it was in last week’s update. However, the expiration Sunday of the Points Hunt and Bonus Builder promotions at PartyPoker may see the bwin.party offering slip back down to fourth place in future weeks.
Just outside of the top ten, The Hive has pulled into a tie with MPN for 12th place. Both are considerably off the pace of PokerStars.fr, who has sole possession of 11th. Earlier this year, MPN had been within the top ten, but the loss of Unibet one month ago has caused Microgaming to experience a substantial decline in cash player traffic.
Speaking of Unibet, the poker room just revealed its new loyalty program called “Challenges.” Continuing with its aim to attract recreational players, the scheme rewards players that accomplish various steps as opposed to providing rewards under the more familiar rake-based industry standard.
A seven-day average of about 300 cash players can be found logged on at Unibet since the site took the bold move of striking out on its own. However, that’s merely an estimation of the actual number and has led a Unibet representative to indicate that 300 is quite shy of even an approximation of the real number of players.
Unibet, along with the likes of Titan Poker, William Hill, PartyPoker and PokerStars, were among about 50 sites blacklisted by Russian authorities recently. The latest reports from players show that most remain unaffected. PokerStars issued a statement that said “our operations continue as usual.” However, this could be something to watch in the future.
In U.S.-related player traffic news apart from Bovada, industry rumors have circulated stating that PokerHost will be leaving the Merge Gaming Network to join the Equity Poker Network (EPN). An official announcement has not yet been released by EPN, who have made a habit of issuing press releases on such matters since launching last November.
EPN has half the cash player action as Merge at the moment. But the switch, if and when it eventually takes place, will likely cause a substantial shift in player numbers among the two networks in the U.S.-facing unregulated online poker market.