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Italy: Market contraction fails to slow PokerStars’ growth

6th July 2011 7:49 am GMT

PokerStars may be on the verge of leaving the French market and in pain in the US, but in Italy business appears to be booming, despite the continued fall in turnover on poker and other online products.

The effects of new gaming legislation, slow pace of introducing new products, continued competition from overseas websites and even perhaps the roll-out of VLTs all seem to have taken their toll on Italy’s internet betting and gaming sector during 2011, with provisional figures for the first six months suggesting that turnover on online poker has fallen by around 7 per cent year-on-year while sports betting stakes are down over 15 per cent.

Not all companies have done badly however. PokerStars overtook Microgame for the first time in June to take top spot in the poker rankings. The international firm’s Italian business grew by over 20% in June, up from €50.1m a year ago to €60.9m, accounting for 27.6 per cent of total spend despite the overall market contracting by 8.6 per cent to €220.9m.

White Label technology provider Microgame saw its share of the poker market fall to 26.5 per cent as June turnover fell on an annual basis some 16.8 per cent to 58.5m. Companies using the Playtech platform fared even worse. SNAI’s turnover fell back 18.7 per cent from €13.9m to €11.3m while rival SISAL turned in an even poorer set of results with spend down over 19 per cent to just below €9m. 

Lottomatica was the only other major firm to register an increase in turnover. Poker spend in June climbed 8 per cent to €28m while its share of the sports betting market grew from 24 per cent a year ago to 27 per cent last month, despite a fall in stake levels. June 2010 featured the World Cup whereas the range of games on offer during the equivalent month of this year was particularly poor in comparison. Unsurprisingly, June 2011 sports betting spend of €51m was almost half the €99m generated a year earlier. However this year’s figure was also well down on the €61m recorded in June 2009, a month with a similar product offer.

The arrival of new operators such as the UK’s William Hill, Austria’s Interwetten and Danish poker specialist Gnuf – as well as Italian media group Mondadori – along with the introduction in mid-July of cash poker and online casino games should breathe life into the online gaming sector, but operators will be anxiously watching how the Italian public react given the economic problems facing the country and the ever-increasing range of offline products on offer.

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