888Poker is officially the second largest brand to launch its poker site in Portugal, uniting the player’s player base with Spain’s.
888Poker Enters Portugal, Gets Shared-Liquidity Approval
888Poker’s debut in Portugal has finally happened, after the country’s regulator cleared one of the world’s largest poker sites for an official launch. 888 Holdings is more than happy to enter this new market in Europe.
A seemingly small country, judging by its population of 10 million people, Portugal is an important point of expansion for all operators. The significance of the county has won it the interest of PokerStars which has beat 888 to the punch, setting up its portuguese online poker site first.
With PokerStars having entered Portugal first, 888 Holdings hasn’t been dissuaded from pursuing further forays in Europe. The iGaming market in Portugal has posted some promising results, generating over $50 million in the first three months of 2019. By one estimate, this is 48% better than Q1, 2018, showing to a significant interest.
Yet, the numbers aren’t broken down to clearly demonstrate whether the revenue has come from online casinos or poker. A cursory glance would tell you that casinos, being more established, have definitely had played a major role, but the question is whether poker also has a place under the Portuguese sky.
Meanwhile, 888Poker won’t be going for it all alone in Portugal. With an approval from the Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ), the brand will pool players in Portugal with those from Spain, creating a shared-liquidity network reuniting over 50 million people.
While the actual number of players is much smaller, the two countries together offer quite the opportunity for online poker. Plus, there are other untapped markets that the company may yet expand into.
For starters, France still remains a very tempting prospect. Any entrant on the European poker scene should focus to provide a bigger player base than the competition. This has been acknowledged by 888 Holdings Business-2-Customer Boss Guy Cohen:
Portugal is a fantastic opportunity for 888 and we’re excited to be just the second poker operator to enter the market. Players love their poker and there is incredible scope to grow its popularity. Shared liquidity with 888poker.es will enhance players’ gaming experience with a greater pool of players and we believe our platform can help lift the entire landscape for poker in Portugal.
Even PokerStars has been struggling to consolidate all player pools between Spain, France and Portugal, because of opposition in France. Yet, things seem to be looking up with the entirety of Europe warming up to the idea of playing poker as a pastime.
Shared-Liquidity, Innovation and Competitors
Cohen’s observation on player base is an important one. It means that 888 will do its best to explore new markets opportunities. PokerStars is a tough competitor closer to the markets where 888 operates in, but new ones await as well. For example, the Czech Republic is turning out to be an interesting hotspot for the game.
In 2018, PartyPoker decided to re-launch its efforts into the market, a year after 888 had left the country facing tough local legislation and dwindling player base. The resurgence of PartyPoker has been one of the defining challenges for 888 Holdings, and by extension PokerStars.
PartyPoker shared multiple obstacles of its own after earlier this year the online poker room has been found not to secure player funds as it was supposed to. This served as a catalyst for the site to improve player security, clamp down on bots, and launch new products. Today, PartyPoker is increasingly regarded as a trustworthy poker community.
Meanwhile, 888’s Portugal entrance comes with a number of games, including SNAP, BLAST, and Knockout Tournaments, all part of the company’s portfolio. Admittedly, 888 has a long way to go before it meets PokerStars in terms of innovation and game versions, including the VR solutions pioneered by PokerStars.
A preliminary estimate of the poker market in Portugal indicates that the vertical accounts for around 13.9% of the total revenue in the iGaming market, not a bad number overall. The shared-liquidity with Spain should definitely see these numbers grow further.