Winamax made the drastic decision to cut fees for its showpiece weekly online Main Event after getting a poor turnout for its most recent Day 1A.
Only 277 runners turned out for the €150 ($172) buyin tournament that carries a guaranteed prizepool of €100,000 ($114.7K). In reaction, the French-regulated site slashed 50 percent off the entry fees for Days 1B and 1C.
The Main Event kicks off on Sunday evening, 21.00 CET, with further Day 1s being played out on Monday and Tuesday night. Players who make it through then play out the ‘Day 2’ of the tourney later on Tuesday evening.
Most interesting, however, would be to know the reaction of Day 1A players who forked out for the full entry fee, only to see their fellow players who registered a day or two later get a significant discount on fees.
UK Exit Dents Winamax Traffic
While the poor turnout for Winamax’s flagship online tournament and the resultant knee-jerk reaction can be seen as a blip in the life of one of France’s major poker sites, it does sound like a trend that’s affecting other operators as well.
Winamax doesn’t take UK customers after the new point of consumption tax in Great Britain made it difficult to justify accepting British players. Under the new UK law, online gambling sites have to pay a 15 percent tax dependant on where their consumers are based, rather than where the sponsoring site’s headquarters is located.
Meanwhile, the French authorities tax UK players heavily who play on the French-focused poker room.
Last month, Winamax stopped accepting players from Spain as well, and began a process of refunding Spanish poker players their deposits. And back in March, the beleaguered French site decided to say arrivederci to the Italian online market, which experiences a similar “ring fencing” of players as does France.
Cash Traffic Still Buoyant
Despite the poor tournament results, Winamax.fr actually holds its own in terms of cash game traffic. According to PokerScout, the site enjoyed a 24-hour peak of 2,308 players under the most recent figures, putting it on a par with PokerStars.it in Italy and PokerStars’ Spanish room.
Having said that, ARJEL, the French regulatory authority, reported a 15 percent decline in cash game action online for French gaming operators during Q1 of 2015. Overall, online poker revenue in France slumped to €61 million ($69.9M), a drop of 5 percent compared to the same time last year.
ARJEL itself has advocated a change in French laws to allow other regulated countries to pool players. And it could well happen.
It will be an interesting few months for the French online gambling industry. The proposed Digital Rights Bill could pave the way for a pooling of online poker liquidity with other countries. This may lead to French players being allowed to play against those from other segregated markets, like Spain and Italy.
The proposed bill is a huge and wide-ranging measure that kicks in next year. It will be interesting to see whether it makes or breaks the French online poker industry.
But a relaxation of laws might actually work against Winamax. If the market is opened up, the site could risk seeing a migration of players to bigger rooms, like PokerStars. And compared to the odd one-off tournament fee discount, that’s a much scarier prospect.