PokerStars Portugal Off to a Flying Start

At the end of November, PokerStars launched its website in Portugal, and its impact was instantly dramatic with an average of 1,800 players taking to the site’s cash tables over a 7-day period. More than three weeks later, and the initial enthusiasm for the site has continued to hold steady, and currently is ranked at number 3 on PokerScout’s ‘Online Poker Traffic Report’, just 100 players behind a second-placed 888poker with 1900 cash players.
The site’s impressive performance in the country of 10.46 million people has naturally attracted attention from gaming analysts, with Steve Ruddock recently releasing an interesting article questioning why New Jersey’s (9 million people) online poker market is languishing so far behind with just 120 cash players on PokerStars, and a total of 310 players for the whole state.
According to Ruddock, much of the discrepancy can be accounted for by a range of structural differences that exist between the two markets. One such factor is that online poker was on the wane in the US in 2011, and that by the time it did return to New Jersey in 2013 interest in the game had declined further. By contrast, Portuguese poker players have been disconnected from having an iPoker option for a much less shorter amount of time, and besides the game still continues to grow in popularity on the Iberian Peninsula.
Another contributing factor is that New Jersey requires players to be 21, but in Portugal the age requirement is just 18, thus allowing for more potential residents to take to the virtual felts. Furthermore, there are only four land-based casinos throughout the whole of Portugal, thus limiting the overall poker options for players and so encouraging them to play online. By contrast, New Jersey residents has a plethora of different venues to satisfy their poker playing needs.
In addition, the successful execution of its marketing approach of sponsoring home-grown sporting star Cristiano Ronaldo to promote the brand in Portugal has evidently been reaping high rewards for PokerStars, whereas in New Jersey the brand has tended to rely on the personalities of its sponsored poker pros to drum up traffic, with only limited effect.
Nevertheless, Ruddock also suggests that any initial excitement that exists in Portugal may ultimately be short-lived, and following the experience of New Jersey, the novelty is sure to fade quickly, especially as the site’s increased promotional expenditure eventually begins to decrease and level off. Case in point, New Jersey’s online poker market was twice its present size when first launched a little over three years ago, but over the past two-and-a-half years its market has remained fairly static at just half that size.

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