We’ve received many questions regarding the recent meeting between Amaya/PokerStars executives and three prominent, high-volume online poker players. Although many details of the meeting must remain confidential because we shared proprietary and non-public information and we signed a non-disclosure agreement with the players, I want to provide our perspective of the meeting, which took place at Amaya’s headquarters outside Montreal. Four company executives with responsibility for the relevant business areas participated fully in the discussions and Amaya CEO David Baazov attended briefly.
We took the opportunity to discuss the poker economy and many associated issues. We listened to what the players had to say, and we shared a lot of information, including internal data and marketing plans. We talked about challenges and opportunities for the game of poker, in addition to the recent changes to the PokerStars VIP rewards program. We provided substantial data to support that these changes were needed and expressed our regret that the changes have angered some high volume players. This was obviously not our goal, although it was anticipated given the nature and timing of the reduction in rewards. We noted that going forward the VIP benefit is a one-year program and we retain the right to change or eliminate the rewards at any time. We will ensure that this is communicated clearly and consistently.
As stated in their public account of the meeting, these players recognize that the facts support our case that changes to the current online poker ecosystem are needed to ensure the health and vitality of the online games.
We emphasized that there is no single magic bullet to do this. The changes to the VIP rewards program are only one part of a broad-based plan to improve the online poker ecosystem. This plan is aimed at increasing the number, frequency of play and total deposits of recreational players (who are the lifeblood of any poker economy) by continuing to make poker fun and relevant to today’s players whether they’re playing on desktop, smartphone or tablet.
We shared a variety of actions that we are implementing and/or considering in order achieve these goals, including product innovation, new software features and development, consumer experience improvements, enhanced game integrity policies, marketing campaigns and pricing.
In considering changes, we believe we are successfully balancing our responsibility to recreational players, the game of poker, and the interests of our employees and shareholders against the expectations of our professional poker player community.
It is common for people to disagree on interpretation of data and the insights gained from this interpretation. As we expressed in the meeting, we are open to continued dialogue regarding our analysis and whether the changes will accomplish our goals. Although it’s very early, the initial data seems to confirm that we made the right decision with the VIP Club changes as player bankrolls are lasting longer in ring games and net deposits are up.
Although that may not be what some players want to hear, the recent meeting demonstrated that an ongoing dialogue can provide greater understanding. We hope to build upon this meeting, and to continue listening to players, even if – and especially when – they disagree with us.
At the same time, we will continue to monitor the health of the ecosystem and we will make necessary changes to ensure the long-term success of online poker and our Company.