In the spring, PokerStars parent Amaya Gaming announced that it had plans to enter the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) market. In a first quarter earnings calls at the time, Amaya CEO David Baazov said that the company was “pursuing parallel tracks of internal development and strategic acquisition” and that it would have more information in the second half of 2015. The goal was to launch a DFS site by the time the National Football League (NFL) season begins in September, as American football is the most popular sport for U.S. bettors.
It is now the second half of 2015 and Amaya Gaming does have more information for us. On Thursday, the company announced that it has acquired Texas-based DFS site Victiv.com. The site will be re-branded to StarsDraft.com and the Victiv team will stay onboard to manage the site.
A strong online poker crossover
Matthew Primeaux, CEO of Victiv, expressed his excitement for the deal in a press release, saying, “StarsDraft will combine Victiv’s innovative platform and experienced DFS team with Amaya’s expansive consumer base and operational excellence as the world’s preeminent online gaming brand. We intend to capitalize on what we believe is strong crossover between online poker players and daily fantasy sports. PokerStars is the most-trusted brand in online gaming and brings unmatched security, customer support and technical infrastructure that we believe all players can rely on.”
Amaya plans to launch StarsDraft in “select U.S. markets” and then later integrate it into its current PokerStars platform. Exactly which U.S. markets will be available at launch were not specified. Victiv does not offer its games in Arizona, Louisiana, Montana, and Washington because of specific laws in those states, so it is possible that “select U.S. markets” could just mean everywhere but those four states.
Leveraging Victiv’s niche
Victiv is a relatively new Daily Fantasy Sports site, having launched less than a year ago, in September 2014. It is not as robust as the two giants of the industry, DraftKings and FanDuel, but it is known for its attractive, easy-to-navigate interface, even if it does not yet have mobile apps to go along with its browser-based platform. Victiv is also occupies a unique niche in the DFS industry in that it accepts the Bitcoin cyber-currency in addition to major credit cards and PayPal.
Only time will tell if PokerStars’ entry into the U.S. Daily Fantasy Sports market will turn the industry on its head. Despite some loss of goodwill since its acquisition by Amaya Gaming last year, PokerStars is still the most respected online poker site in the world and American internet gambling fans have been clamoring for a chance to patronize a PokerStars site once again. It is thought that, at least in the poker arena, that PokerStars’ presence could expand the market as potential players who were sitting on the fence would feel comfortable jumping into the pool when an old favorite goes live. PokerStars could also force current operators to step up their marketing and innovation in order to compete, something that should benefit players.