GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 19 - February 2012

What’s the state of online gaming in Poland these days? Have recent gov- ernment efforts to ban it had any ef- fect on the Polish market? It’s hard to say, since it is all gray and underground. Judging by the numbers I’ve seen and the rumors I’ve heard, it is what it used to be before October 2009 (breakout of “gam- bling scandal” followed shortly by new gambling laws = the Big Ban). There is no decline. Regular gamblers know they’re not likely to be punished for playing online so they keep playing. But there is no growth, either. New po- tential players are not educated since all the operators backed away from the official marketing channels – you can- not see any ads or promos anymore in Poland. Also all major affiliate sites are – in theory and small print – designed for “Polish-speaking clients gambling from jurisdictions where it is legal.” How seriously you take that disclaimer is strictly up to you. So far our government has taken actions against land-based slot machines, land- based online “terminals” (public slots- like machines which allowed you to gamble online while depositing with the local shop/pub owner) and innocent, recreational tournament poker players who set up card games at clubs. Going after that last group unleashed the fury of the media and online communities (as the police raids were absurdly excessive and exaggerated) and put some heat on the government, which is now consider- ing adjusting the gambling ban to allow tournament poker. But in general the ban is pretty hardcore – the government even removed Hold’em cash games from official land-based casi- nos and made tournaments totally painful and unprofitable to organize. That is the reason all major poker tours skip Poland right now. For affiliates looking to enter the Polish market, how do Poland and the Polish market differ from the rest of Europe? What works in Poland that might not work in the rest of Europe?What works in the rest of Europe that might not work in Poland? In terms of gambling patterns it is pretty much standard, with sportsbook, poker and casino taking even slices of the pie if you look at the profits. Other markets like backgammon or bingo are hardly penetrated and not popular. What definitely works in the Polish mar- ket is a strong focus on localization of whatever you call your business – be it betting, casino, poker, affiliate site, etc. If you wanna do it, do it right and do it in Polish! Unfortunately, many Polish gamblers are not that comfortable with English (except maybe for the poker community), so if your offer is run by locals in Polish you immediately gain a strong advantage. Obviously, using local celebrities like Polish sport stars helps too, but since the Big Ban everybody has been more careful. And one more thing – forget Google Translate. Our language is complex enough to give us Poles headaches while writing stuff, so just don’t try it! You will lose your credibility and hurt your brand unless you talk to native professionals. Oh, and the same goes for link-exchange e-mails, guys; please use English with me rather than attempt to e-translate to Polish – I might die of a heart attack laughing one day. . . . What’s the most popular form of gam- bling in Poland? Is it casino, poker or sportsbetting? Sportsbetting is the most popular in the mainstream, for sure. You can still bet in the shops and betting is pretty much most of the heavy artillery in the typical online operator’s marketing arsenal. The poker scene got hit by the laws, but people keep rocking; you just can’t keep it down, legal or illegal. Obviously more liberal regulations would make it blos- som right now, but that is not the case yet, unfortunately. But as far as I know, many players have taken the initiative and formed official associations to represent the community and talk to the govern- ment about better regulations. Casino is the most quiet of all, but it is a big business that the government wants to get a tight grip on via a state monopoly lottery, making the government the one- and-only official online operator. You work with some European poker providers. What was their response to the Black Friday indictments in the U.S.? And has your affiliate business picked up on the poker side since the indictments? Well, they got very, very ac- tive around the middle of April, if you know what I mean. It was kind of funny to see how they popped champagne corks around the freshly laid corpses of the Big Boys of Poker and how they were all of a sudden convincing players it is all good if you stick with them – which is true, by the way. As far as the business goes, I am way too fo- cused on casinos to notice any big changes in poker, plus I think PokerStars got back on their feet pretty quickly and made sure Polish players were happy and safe. How long have you been involved in the industry? What drew you to the business? I’ve been in the industry for about five years. I started as a marketing consultant for a major U.K. sports book- ie, very active in the Polish market back then. Acting as promotion manager for poker and casino, I learned the tricks of the trade and gained a lot of insight into the market. When I terminated my job there and moved on to another business, I decided to use my knowledge to create an affiliate website. That’s how it all started. GPWA AFFILIATE INTERVIEW SERIES MICHAEL LazyRiver If you wanna do it, do it right and do it in Polish! GPWA Affiliate Interview Series