bwin.party is to roll out a next generation version of PartyPoker in the first quarter of 2013, as the group focuses on stabilising its poker business and returning it to growth.
The operator reported an 8% year-on-year fall in pro-forma poker revenues in the first half of 2012 to €96.4m, from €104.9m. Poker earnings (clean EBITDA) fell nearly 26% to €10m, from €13.5m. The poker performance partially offset solid growth in casino and games, with the group growing total revenue by 3% to €410.0m. Earnings were up 18% to €85.6m, as [m]erger synergies more than offset increased gaming taxes”, said the London-listed group this morning.
Co-CEOs Norbert Teufelberger and Jim Ryan (pictured above) said that to arrest the ongoing decline in poker, which it blamed on competitive pressures, compounded by the shift towards ring-fenced liquidity in national markets as well as the payment of gaming taxes in each, the company was “determined to return it to growth through execution of a detailed plan that includes pooling our poker liquidity as well as repositioning our flagship PartyPoker brand.”
The company thus unveiled its “four part plan to return poker to growth”. The first stage is an “improved poker ecology”, with PartyPoker already having removing high-stakes tables above US$5/$10, aimed at limiting the potential for net depositing, lower stakes players to lose their money quickly to experienced players. The operator also amended its contract in February 2012 “with certain of our larger affiliates that had been driving large numbers of marginally profitable players to our sites”, which resulted in a decline of 18% in active player days and new sign-ups of 43% in the period, but also a “corresponding 11% uplift in player yields.”
The second stage of the company’s plan to revitalise its poker business is also already underway, the launch of fast-fold variant FastForward Poker, which went live in beta on PartyPoker.com on 8 August 2012, and is set to be rolled out across all the company’s poker channels next month.
Third, the company will complete the pooling of poker liquidity across the bwin and PartyPoker dot.com platforms as well as the ring-fenced platforms in France later this year, which while the company expects to experience some loss of players upon migration, “we still expect to see a meaningful uplift in player liquidity and are focused on ensuring that we maximise the network effect from an increased numbers of players in each pool.
Finally, the company has been working on a new version of PartyPoker, “comprising many new features and a new look and feel”, to be rolled out in early 2013.