PokerStars became the world's largest poker site for a lot of reasons. Many of our players, perhaps you, can reel them off: a great product, constant innovation, top customer service, unbeatable liquidity, smart marketing, having the most trusted brand name in the online poker world.
These have all been key drivers of our success. Other less tangible factors have been just as fundamental to our growth: the fervent belief in doing the right thing by players and the game, truly understanding the poker ecosystem, being committed to expanding the poker universe, relentlessly investing in the future.
Our research & development budget, technical infrastructure and security costs are significant.
We've made a lot of hard decisions over the years, some of which have cost the company a lot of money. In the early years, we bet big on sending thousands of online poker players to the WSOP, spending millions on mass-market television advertising and sponsoring scores of professional poker players. More recently, we invested heavily in stablizing the global online poker ecosystem following Black Friday; purchasing Full Tilt and paying back that company's players. We also spend more than most companies in advocating for online poker regulation and legislation that will create certainty and stability for players and for our company.
We've shown that our pursuit of doing what's best for the game, what's best for the livelihood and vitality of the entire poker community, is good business, even if it means higher ongoing costs from expenses like local taxes in newly-regulated jurisdictions.
We make those decisions every day across the entire company. Most changes go unnoticed, because they're meant to unobtrusively improve the player experience, like optimising security to ensure you're playing at the safest poker site in the world.
Others changes get more attention, such as our recent changes to the foreign exchange (FX) charges or the rake that we apply to various games. We know that some of these decisions will not be popular in all quarters and they're not decisions taken lightly, but are made looking broadly across the poker ecosystem.
We'll continue to invest in the obvious costs like mass-market advertising and innovative new game formats and software enhancements. And we'll continue to lead the industry charge into regulated markets.
We feel that we've always done right by our players and by the game. Look at what we've achieved in spreading the game globally, both live and online; how we've built liquidity in ring games of all shapes and sizes; how we've created hugely popular online tournament series; and how we've behaved as a responsible corporate citizen over the years. We've built trust and respect largely because we're willing to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions.
The game is constantly changing and evolving, as is society and technology at large. Like any good poker player, we know that you have to adapt or risk being left behind. We're committed to keeping poker exciting, fresh and relevant to new players and to loyal grinders.
We'll continue to make changes when they have to be made. Some will go unnoticed, some you'll cheer and some you won't agree with or you will say are self-serving.
I like to think of it as bankroll management. The choices we make today aren't for short term gain; they're made because we believe they're the right thing for tomorrow. We'll continue to make tough calls to secure the game in the present and make bold moves to best invest in the future growth of the game. Our goal continues to be to provide the best, most exciting poker experience and keep the poker universe growing.
Eric Hollreiser is Head of Corporate Communications for PokerStars.