Amin Rozani, co-founder and Managing Director of The Spartan Poker, one of India's leading real money gaming portals discusses the challenges faced in the online poker sphere
What are the challenges faced in the online poker space at present?
The area of opportunity here is the taboo associated with real money gaming. There is still a prevailing thought (among those who aren’t fully aware) that poker is a game of chance. That mindset has been changing over the past 5 years especially but there is some way to go before poker gains complete acceptance as a mind sport that is skill-based. Of course, there are advertising and marketing hurdles faced by us when we try to promote the sport and our brand as mainstream advertising is unavailable to us. There is also a lack of clarity about regulation which needs to be addressed if this industry is to achieve the growth it is capable of in a shorter duration of time.
Poker leagues are burgeoning and also being televised. What are the opportunities in the sportification of skill games?
Certainly it is terrific mainstream exposure for the sport and the more that happens, the faster we will see this game grow in India. If you ask people like us who first started playing/following the sport back in the mid-2000s, watching shows like the World Poker Tour on Indian television really opened us to how developed poker was in mature markets like the US and Europe.
The other advantage of televised poker is the creation of Indian poker celebrities. While there are stalwarts in the game across the world, that one can admire, it’s a different feeling to look at home-grown heroes as a source of pride and inspiration.
Although there are various restrictions on international operators starting something in India, what are the possibilities in the present scenario?
The poker industry in India is a very niche one which is closed off. There are several entry barriers for international operators to venture into India despite it being a very attractive proposition and one of ‘last frontiers’ in terms of poker markets. So any international operator who wishes to enter needs to understand these challenges and will require substantial funding to make a dent in this market.
There are various legal cases going on in High Courts that will decide the fate of skill-based games like poker and rummy. How has the progress been in the matters so far and what may be expected in terms of legal and regulatory challenges going forward?
Poker is still in its nascent stages. The industry has exhibited immense growth despite various challenges. This upward trend will continue and considering that there are more opportunities than challenges, I am hopeful that those in charge of regulations will see the positives of making this sport mainstream and that it will happen sooner rather than later.
Do you think other state governments are looking at opportunities in the casino and gaming space?
Certainly, tourism-dependent states are always looking for opportunities to attract visitors. Gaming entertainment provides that and the significant revenue it would generate will help those states in funding various other developmental initiatives.
What are the innovative products that can be offered in the current market and are you looking to expand your offering?
Within poker, there are many variants like Open Face Chinese Poker (OFC), a fast-paced variant such as Boost (also known as Zoom on PokerStars), a jackpot style variant called Windfall and many more products are already on offer for players. Beyond poker, there are games like rummy, fantasy sports and even play money casino which we are looking to get into. As such we are constantly seeking to innovate and new product development is an on-going activity.
What do you look forward to by being a part of SPiCE 2019?
SPiCE will allow me the opportunity to listen to and interact with industry leaders and veterans who will share their past experiences as well as their vision for the gaming industry’s future. Such insights are immensely useful to newcomers as well as to brands like ours which been around for a while. We can learn from the pillars of the industry which will help us avoid making errors and improve existing processes. After all we are in the service business and the ongoing goal is to always serve our customers better.
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