Online poker special: Bill Rini, Caesars Interactive Entertainment (Part Two)

Online poker special: Bill Rini, Caesars Interactive Entertainment (Part Two)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 Totally Gaming

In the second part of a two-part interview, Bill Rini, the head of online poker at Caesars Interactive Entertainment, tells about how his company’s World Series of Poker unit is trying to stand out in a crowded market.

To read Part One of the interview, click here. How is the World Series of Poker tailoring its offering to differentiate itself?

Bill Rini: “I think it starts off with who we are. Every member of the team is fully aware of how lucky we are to be doing something we love and knowing the things we do on a day-to-day basis serve a bigger purpose than just generating revenue. We are stewards of a brand that players associate with being at the pinnacle of the poker world.

“That’s reflected in the fact that we are regularly recognised as having the best promotions, tournament schedules, and offerings for our players. We are constantly challenging ourselves to create the best online poker experience for players.” What is your current perspective of in the US? What are the major obstacles to expansion?

BR: “We’re very proud of how well the brand has resonated with poker players in the US. Even relatively new players tell us that they love the brand, what it stands for, and they know it’s a site they can trust. That is why we’ve performed so well in Nevada and New Jersey, and we will continue to perform well in any markets that we enter.

“Obviously, the markets have not grown as big or as quickly as many people predicted a few years ago. It’s difficult to make predictions when what we’re doing here, this state-by-state approach, has never really been done before. Especially with the geolocation and other regulatory issues that players, and to some extent, the operators, are not used to.” How big an issue is liquidity?

BR: “I believe the biggest obstacle to online poker realising its full potential in the US is rooted in the fact that liquidity tends to be momentum driven. The more liquidity a site or a market has, the more games you can offer, and the bigger the prize pools in tournaments.

“You have to remember that when the first poker boom happened, you had the Moneymaker effect which drove a lot of poker players into live and online poker rooms. That inflated prize pools which attracted more people to poker which grew prize pools even further which... I think you get the picture.

“The markets that currently allow online poker simply aren’t big enough on their own to generate enough liquidity and big enough prize pools to get that snowball effect going. It’ll be much slower going this time around but we firmly believe that there is a tipping point out there. We just haven’t hit it yet.” How important is inter-state compacting?

BR: “Obviously inter-state compacts can drive momentum. Currently Delaware and Nevada are working on a compact, which is an important first step. The merging of liquidity of those two states probably won’t be the tipping point itself but the next compact between states becomes that much easier once there’s a proven model out there so I consider the Nevada-Delaware compact to be a very important milestone for online poker in the US.” How does online poker overcome the regulatory hurdles that block its growth in important markets?

BR: “I don’t believe that regulations are hurdles in the states where online gaming has been legalised so I can only speak to the states that have yet to legalize online gaming. We certainly have a lobbying framework in place to try to tell our story to lawmakers, but more importantly, every day we operate we prove that online poker can be offered in a safe, responsible manner.

“A few years ago, opponents of online gaming were able to rely on straw man arguments to scare people about what online poker might do if it were allowed. Today, it’s much more difficult to sell those fears because we have real life examples. We no longer have to talk about online player protection mechanisms in the abstract. The industry thus far has done an excellent job on knocking down barriers by delivering on the promise.”


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