For the upcoming December edition of Trafficology, Owain Flanders takes a look at the resurgence of online poker amid the COVID-19 pandemic and assesses whether this popularity could continue into the New Year.
Speaking with Gambling Insider earlier this year, Jamie Harvey, a news writer for The Big Blind blog and representative of Winning Poker Network (WPN), described an unprecedented increase in WPN tournament entries in 2020. “We had to take preventative measures such as making our main events two-day events because the server load was becoming dangerously high,” he explained. “This was despite the addition of dozens of more servers.”
The reason for such a sudden increase in online poker tournament entries lies in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. From March, the cancellation of sports put a temporary halt to sports betting and increased traffic to alternative verticals. Added to that, potential customers were locked at home with plenty of time on their hands and access to the internet. Online poker operators were placed within the small category of gambling companies able to benefit from what was an otherwise dire situation.
As a result, companies offering online poker services saw a boom in profits in the middle of the year. Speaking on a panel during an SBC Digital Summit, Ivonne Montealegre, founder and event director of the Malta Poker Festival, explained how some markets across the globe had doubled in size as a result of the pandemic. She described the lockdown-fuelled online poker popularity as a “second wave even bigger than the Moneymaker” – referring to online poker’s first period of substantial growth in the early 2000s. This growth is clear to see in the financial results of the industry’s online poker operators, such as Pokerstars and 888.