Opinion ---- Jim SIBCY

AS a TV executive finding the poker industry two years ago, it seemed like an obvious business success. The likes of PartyPoker and PokerStars were spending huge amounts of cash on marketing and TV was credited as the premier cash on marketing and TV was credited as the premier method of attracting new interest and widening the net of new players.

      Sam Orams and I were convinced that a dedicated poker channel could be a commercial success. With running costs of around £ 3m per year, we needed to demand an average hourly rate of £ 350 to break even. All we had to do then was create a number of products that met and exceeded this value to potential clients.
      What we learnt very early on was that cost per acquisition (CPA) and retention of players were the key factors for our clients. Our products had to deliver accountable recruitment of players with long-term value. It was obvious that a lot of the marketing activity deployed by the poker industry was becoming less effective in a cluttered market place. Every other taxi, billboard and print advert was for one of the growing number of poker & casino sites .
      Thus, Poker Night Live was born. We wanted to offer a truly interactive television show that made it possible for the ‘average Joe’ to play live on TV from the comfort of their home. We were fed up of seeing high states, short handed tournaments with the usual round up of top professionals. These big tournaments, although entertaining to watch, were inaccessible to the millions of online players .
      PNL addresses all of our objectives. We now offer thousands of regular players the chance to be on TV and have generated a growing community of loyal fans that come back time and time again to experience a fully interactive televisual product.
      It is amazing that in a poker industry rife with multimillion dollar TV deals, Poker Night Live, a modestly priced, low-budget product offers a better value product than any of its rivals. Pokerzone has been responsible for creating over 6,000 new players for its sponsors in just nine months with an average CPA of just US $180. With testimonials proving that all 6,000 of those are high quality real money players, and global expansion at the top of our list, we are certain to deliver ever increasing numbers of new players throughout 2006 and beyond.
      Jim Sibcy is managing  director at Pokerzone


Opinion ---- Tex REES

We all know that underage and problem gambling is a bad thing in   both a moral and industry sense, but at the same time perhaps a hassle that seems to sit outside the busy hurly-burly of online casino and pkr room operational activity. But in terms of protecting your company, it must be regarded as a key performance responsibility.
      Problem gamblers usually prefer the buzz of games of chance and the next big win, but they also develop the illusion that they can control random elements.
      Speed is another factor. The shorter the interval between betting and result, the more addictive the game. Age is a major element, another reason why under-age gambling must be prevented. Excessive time spent online gambling and chasing losses are key indicators. Money is not necessarily an indicator, because the compulsive gambler generally sees it as a means to an end-to win again.

     ‘Ordinary ’ gamblers will usually enjoy their session. They do not come for the game alone but for entertainment and perhaps even the community element. And they show good self-control. Gamblers who are at risk tend to be very game-focused, play above budget, become more excited when winning or over-react when losing. Problem gamblers tend to lose the reality of a link between available money and play. They cheat and lie to get what they want.
      Pathological gamblers play for playing’s sake and for long periods of time. They lack control and lose all sense of financial values. They simply cannot stop themselves in many cases, regardless of the consequences to themselves or others. Their only salvation is to eschew gambling in any form.

      Experts warn that it is important that the decision to quit or get help comes from the gambler, and not imposed against his will. Having drawn attention to the problem, and with sufficient information to assist him, the gambler is more likely to act if he decides for himself on counseling and self-exclusion. Experts say that exclusion is unlikely   to work unless it is for a minimum of six months – anything shorter can lead to relapses. It is essential that no temptation in the way of promotional marketing material be sent to the gambler.
      It is important to have a manager with responsibility for excluding and treating underage or problem gamblers, with top management playing an active support role, ensuring that supervisors undergo training in identification and basic handling, together with regular staff refresher courses and monitoring.
      Awareness programmers, perhaps on the casino website, with concise self-questionnaires can be a helpful guide to gamblers wanting to privately check their vulnerability. Responsible gambling must be easily accessible and visible for those with difficulties, not hidden away like the problem itself so often is.

Tex Rees is fair gaming advocate at eCOGRA