The Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) has moved quickly to take advantage of the forthcoming IGT Poker closure, with two major skin operators confirming they will be moving their main operations to the MPN by the end of the year.
BetVictor, formerly Victor Chandler, confirmed today it will be migrating all of its poker players onto the network at the end of September. Microgaming was already powering BetVictor Poker in Israel, Canada, Norway and Russia since November last year, when these markets were cut off from the dot.com network by US slot machine giant IGT in its drive to satisfy Nevada regulators, which saw the network and its licensees suffer a crippling drop-off in liquidity.
IGT CEO Patti Hart however told US-based Bloomberg Businessweek the poker business model in Europe had become unprofitable for IGT after it “shifted from dot-com to dot-country”. Hart’s comments however run contrary to the received view from Europe, where the tipping point towards dot.country had clearly been reached well before IGT agreed to buy the dot.com Entraction poker network for close to US$115m in May 2011, with Italy having introduced dot.it tournament poker from September 2008, France dot.fr tournament and ring games from June 2010 and Spain having announced its intention to follow suit.
Microgaming is currently the eigth largest room/network for cash games, according to tracking website PokerScout. Adding just half of the current traffic on IGT could see the MPN move ahead of Ongame and Winamax.fr and rival PokerStars.it for the fifth spot in PokerScout’s global rankings.
On BetVictor’s move to the MPN, Microgaming’s head of network games Lydia Melton said the company was “delighted” that Gibraltar-licensed BetVictor had chosen to enter into an exclusive relationship ahead of the closure of IGT’s in December. “The MPN has seen significant advances over the past year, with developments by the Network Management Board and the launch of our True Value rake allocation method making it the natural choice for leading operators.” BetVictor Poker said today it had over 1.5 million registered players in 160 countries since first launching in 2002, but did not disclose how many of these were active.
Melton also confirmed that iGame, the Malta-licensed operator which owns the 24hPoker.com, Pokerihuone.com, Casinohuone.com, NoiQ.com and iGame.com skins currently running on IGT, would be moving its poker offering to Microgaming “towards the end of this year”. iGame will also as part of the new relationship be phasing in a range of Microgaming’s casino games available via its Flash-based QuickFire platform. Melton said: “[W]e know that the iGame players will find the MPN, with its focus on creating an ecologically sound poker environment, to be a welcome home.”
The announcement IGT Poker was to close in December left close to 50 poker skins looking for a new provider. With the poker network sector consolidating towards Playtech’s iPoker and the MPN, which have both implemented policies to protect operators with the large marketing budgets to spend on acquiring recreational players, many of the rakeback-led smaller skins on IGT may struggle to find a new home ahead of December.
Microgaming added that it was “in advanced discussions with a number of other major operators” looking to join the MPN.