Online poker market stagnates

The online poker market has stagnated with gross gaming yield valued at £265m last year, according to new research by Mintel.

What’s more, this year the market is expected to decline by 7% to £247 million.

The downturn follows impressive growth of 72% between 2004 and 2007.

According to Mintel’s research, almost a third of players admit to having changed their poker habits as a result of the impact of the recession – playing the game less often or for smaller stakes.

Average spend per year has fallen by almost 20% in the past two years, down from £345 in 2007 to £281 in 2009.

Matt King, senior leisure analyst at Mintel, says: “Poker revenues have clearly peaked. The recession is the most obvious culprit, with around a third of poker players now playing less often or for lower stakes because of the economic downturn. However, there may be other inherent problems that the industry has to address.”

Rakeback promotions (refunding the poker room rake that has been charged from a player), for instance, are minimising margins and “showing the emphasis is on customer numbers, not the profit generated per customer,” King adds.

Despite declining revenues, the industry does boast a loyal base of customers. Today, over half of poker players play once a week or more, while around a third of online players play once a week or more.

And while the online game has been hit, its effects have been much less than for the live game played in commercial venues like casinos, clubs and pubs. Player boredom has played a part in the decline in live poker, suggesting that site refreshment is needed as well as more innovation.

By contrast, Mintel says a real strength of the online poker world is the diversity of sites available, which allows players motivated by various forces to find a site or room that appeals to them.

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