EvenBet CEO Dmitry Starostenkov envisions a future in which up to ten online poker operators compete in the US

EvenBet CEO Starostenkov Is Optimistic About The Future Of Online Poker In The US

EvenBet Gaming has kept its faith in the US online poker market. Speaking to Online Poker Report this week, EvenBet CEO Dmitry Starostenkov said his company has kept its Florida office open despite the events of Black Friday. He said he’s kept EvenBet poised for what he expects to be renewed growth in online poker.

Starostenkov said that in keeping itself ready to re-enter the US online gambling market, EvenBet has retained its intimate knowledge of American online poker players. He knows that for them, Friday, April 15, 2011, remains an indelible memory.

That’s the day the US Department of Justice shut down three major US online poker operators, alleging they violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). 

Now that more states are legalizing online poker – with Connecticut being the most recent market to have done so, though no site has yet launched – Starostenkov believes EvenBet will have more business opportunities. At the moment, it offers a platform for “poker clubs” using a variety of business models while waiting for regulated real money iGaming to expand further.

The Malta-based online poker software provider that offers a “Fully [customizable] turnkey poker solution for startups and integration” exhibited last month at Global Gaming Expo 2021 (G2E). There, EvenBet gave away an ebook about acquiring and retaining online poker players

Starostenkov spoke to OPR about EvenBet’s G2E experience, as well as its vision for the future. His words below are direct quotes, with only minor edits for punctuation and clarity.

When does EvenBet plan to enter the US market?

DS: We are already there, and we have been there for a long time. When we started developing online poker software in 2004, the States were our principal market. Even after the infamous Black Friday, we didn’t close our office in Florida, keeping it as a base to work with some of our customers in Europe and South America. We’ve started talking to the operators in the US again from the beginning of the pandemic, as it has become clear that more and more states will regulate online poker. Since we have never really left the country and know American players well, we are quickly gaining momentum.

When does EvenBet plan to enter the Canadian market?

Right now, our focus is on the USA. Undoubtedly, Canada is an attractive and prospective market, so we hope to be there in the foreseeable future. It is also possible it could happen via a US-based operator, as most of them are entering or planning to enter Canada.

Did EvenBet have any US or Canadian client or partner prospects before exhibiting at G2E?

Absolutely. We have already presented our company and our poker platform to many existing and potential US-based operators. At the moment, we are in the middle of negotiations with several of them, and it started way before G2E. And, of course, we’ve had operations in the USA in the early 2000s, during the initial poker boom.

You gave away an ebook and information at G2E regarding tips to acquire and retain online poker players. Did customers convert for you as a result of that content? (Did you acquire customers that way?)

The main goal of this ebook and the whole series of the educational content we’re working on was never to acquire new customers. We try to guide our existing operators and new companies in the online poker industry in general, to make their businesses more successful and navigate them through the most complicated issues of poker room management. Since 2004, when we started developing online poker software, our company has accumulated a lot of expertise based on our own and our customers’ data. At this point, it has become necessary to make it more available and more structured. We don’t get any direct benefits from the ebook, but if our customers rake in more, we earn more, too.

If EvenBet did acquire customers via the content, what was your rate?

I don’t think there were any immediate customers, yet in B2B, content is usually a vital part of every conversion.

Did EvenBet acquire customers at G2E as a result of other efforts?

G2E was a significant landmark in our events calendar for this year.

We used all the tools available to guarantee our success:

  • pre-show networking and PR activity,
  • targeted interactions with the companies we’re most interested in, and
  • everything we used to do in the dominion of sales and business development.

Participation in a big event is always a complex activity, so our marketing and sales teams put lots of effort into preparations.

What specific companies is EvenBet interested in seeing use its product?

Unfortunately, I can’t share any names. We have shown or are showing our platform to almost every major casino or sports betting operator in the USA and even to some affiliate companies. As I’ve told you, our team has been working on active networking and business communication for about a year, so we have already reached most companies we’re interested in, and we have several pre-sale negotiations running. These are both already existing online operators and some land-based casinos looking for online poker software.

Is EvenBet hoping to be an acquisition target?

No. There’s still a lot of room for us to grow as an independent developer and vendor.

Do you believe the US online poker market will eventually be one big multi-state traffic pool? If so, do you believe there will be room for a fourth online operator?

Not only fourth, but probably tenth. For the moment, with the current restrictions for interstate traffic in the USA and limited online poker legislation, global network giants have an advantage of the already existing liquidity and the overall business agility due to that.

If poker legislation moves forward quickly and more states join the interstate traffic agreement, this will give a chance to smaller poker operators and those casinos who don’t want to join the network, as it limits their control of the business. Being an independent poker operator has its benefits: adapting the tournament grid for your target audience, creating unique promotional mechanics, running cross-game marketing activities, not to mention the complete financial control.

We’ll see more operators like this as soon as there are fewer barriers to their growth. As a developer and vendor, we are ready to help them with this challenge. This year, we have redesigned our poker platform, especially our mobile applications, so that they will meet the expectations and the demands of the US audience. I’ve already said that we know American players well, so we are confident in achieving results.

One of EvenBet’s strengths is in crypto, yet the US market doesn’t allow it. Do you see that changing?

In terms of finance, the US market is generally more conservative than Europe or Asia, so I’m not sure there will be any significant changes this or next year.

What more would EvenBet like OPR readers to know?

What also stops potential independent poker operators from emerging is the lack of platforms available in the local market. As a company based in the USA, we don’t have competitors. Titanic-sized networks create their software in-house, and most developers who were working on white label poker software ceased to exist after online poker was banned. Probably, someone will eventually create another poker platform, but even with a work-ready and experienced team, it takes years to create a modern competitive product that meets users’ expectations.

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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