Why 2017 told us that Online Poker is Here to Stay
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Another eventful and thrilling year just ended. The overall business sentiment of the country saw a positive uptick, and while mainstream sectors continued their steady march, niche sectors driven by India's burgeoning startup space grew manifold. One such sector is the online poker industry, falling under the online gaming umbrella. Poker, like every other evolving industry, has truly embraced the digital medium. With several entities enthusiastically exploring and investing in the online poker space, the true potential of the sector is expected to be unlocked in the coming years, starting 2018. 2017 has been rather positive for the poker industry, from poker leagues to value-driven collaborations and honouring of the industry through India's first ever poker awards.
Popularity of Online Poker
There are several factors that have contributed to the overall positioning, popularity, reach and solidification of online poker in India. The number of live online poker tournaments and games has increased by leaps and bounds, and a growth rate of 30% this year has given the industry a vital boost. The year 2017 began with the launch of Poker Sports League, creating buzz as the newest sports league aiming to revolutionize and "sport-ify" the card game by bringing it to the masses. Another poker league that made headlines this year was the Match Indian Poker League. The winner of this league will be representing India at the Match Poker World Club in England in 2018. Recognizing the emerging talent in the industry, India's first ever poker awards property, India Poker Awards, was held in Bangalore this year, with top poker players across the country congregating under one roof. As the year moved along, online poker tournaments and its increasing popularity in the poker scene kept getting bigger and better with guaranteed prizes and lakhs to play for. From small towns to metros, players across the country showcased their poker skills this year by putting their best feet forward.
The ever-growing number of online poker players is testament to the incredible popularity the sport has seen over the last couple of years. It is believed that there are more than two lakh active poker players in India. Metros such as Bangalore, Kolkata and Ahmedabad have started to embrace online poker to an extent that the opening of new poker clubs is expected every month from here on. Largely perceived as an intelligent sport, the educated, elite, and young audience has been enthusiastically partaking in online poker, which is a direct indication of the inherent appeal of the sport. In 2017, poker entrepreneurs predominantly thrived on quality consumer service and high-value player investment. They also successfully deployed several tools and strategies to penetrate into larger audience segments. For example, collaborations with colleges for cultural fests, organizing charity events with NGO's, and many more such successful strategies were implemented by industry players to spread awareness, apart from introducing celebrities as brand endorsers to reach out to a wider set of potential players.
Challenges in Growth
Rome wasn't built in a day. Similarly, the acceptance of online poker wasn't an overnight development. Every industry faces a unique set of challenges that they have to tackle before they succeed, and online poker was no exception to this. To introduce the idea of online poker to the Indian market as well to sow a seed in a potential consumer's mind was a barrier in itself. Skeptics identifying poker as illegal and fraudulent threatened its growth, but the Nagaland license being passed by the Union ministry has reinstated the legitimacy and authenticity of the sport. Convincing users about the reliability of taking the game of poker online was a challenge in itself, and to get them to invest money was another layer to this challenge, which seems to have been overcome today.
After US, UK, China, and some European nations, a large number of people have accepted poker as a game of skill in India. 2017 witnessed several innovative entrepreneurs flock this industry with immense enthusiasm driven by innovative ideas. While startups continue to throng this space, prominent businessmen, celebrities and leading business groups have embarked on exciting journeys in the online poker space. 2018 is expected to be action-packed and exciting since the acceptance and the number of entrepreneurs willing to invest in the space is increasing by the day. The market is relatively untapped but has a huge potential and as the years go by, it's likely that India will continue to capture a larger slice of the online poker pie. An industry that was pegged at about $120 million last year is only set to welcome a positive 2018. Online Poker is here to stay and how!