In recent weeks, PokerStars has made several changes which have upset some players. We’ve heard these complaints and are genuinely listening to the feedback. No one likes higher costs and we appreciate that point of view.
In recent years, we have also heard many high-volume, professional poker players say that the games are tougher now and it’s harder to win than in the past. This is one of the reasons we’ve actually reduced rake, which helps the ROI of these players. But that’s not making the games any softer, which is what would really improve ROI.
Instead, we need to invest in new ways to improve the poker economy.
Over recent years, we have been developing ways to grow that we believe will attract new players and reactivate players already in our database. Such initiatives include new poker variants, expansion into other gaming verticals, and new marketing approaches. While we understand that not all players are satisfied with the short-term impact of these changes, the reality is they have the potential to increase poker liquidity.
However, initiatives to attract players require significant investments in areas of marketing, promotions and product innovation.
Additionally, in order to not only secure our continued place as an industry leader across the globe but also to grow ourselves and the game globally, we continue to lobby for the regulation of online poker and attempt to obtain licenses in many newly regulated, locally licensed jurisdictions. We support regulation because we believe it ensures game integrity, player protection, and increases the recognized legitimacy for the game itself. However, there are obviously significant upfront costs to these efforts as well as ongoing costs in the form of gaming license fees and duties.
The funding has to come from many places and it is perfectly reasonable that some of it comes from reducing certain costs, which was the rationale for some of the changes to our VIP program, stemming from a review we began early this year, as well as charging a margin on currency exchange fees. It is also the rationale for our changes to the rake.
If we can grow poker, everyone will benefit. Even our competitors will benefit, because in a rising tide, all ships rise.
Finally, it has to be said that our rake, our currency exchange rates and our VIP program are all more competitive than those of our major competitors.