In business, being bigger is better seems to be the dominant mantra. Being bigger gives you more resources to execute your business plan and security to handle the various business cycles. It is no different in the online gaming and poker industry. We have seen PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker bludgeon the competition by outspending and out innovating once they established a bigger presence.
PartyPoker and the iPoker network have been in a protracted struggle to become the clear third place poker network. It has cost both significantly. Now PartyGaming and Bwin have just made official what was rumored for months, their merger to form what they claim is "the clear market leader with leading positions across all of the key product verticals of poker, sports betting, casino and games which includes bingo." Some have speculated that the merger was more to shore up PartyGaming's sportsbooks than purely for the poker combination, but it will have serious implications in the poker world. Bwin controls the respectable Ongame network, which just saw Betfair, who for several years had wanted to be independent, recently join the larger network. These moves should clearly define the new PartyPoker as the clear third place room and formidable enough to try to tangle with PokerStars and Full Tilt.
With HR 2267 having been passed in the House Financial Services Committee, we are one step closer to having a new legislation signed into law. The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act has several limiting amendments attached to it, one of which has language that might impact industry behemoths like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and UB who have benefited the last four years from continuing to serve the US market. I would imagine that one of the benefits of becoming much larger in the interim is that they can afford significant lobbying and legal teams to assert their interests in this process.
The current trend of individual countries licensing and regulating online gaming is strengthening as countries chase after their previously missed tax revenue. This process creates an extra layer of management and complexity that only the biggest poker operators can handle easily. Marketing to individual markets requires a certain scale of economy. PartyGaming appears serious about their desire to challenge the top two poker room players and attempt to return to their top spot of pre-2007. The US government could give them a big boost if they prioritized their licensing and delayed those for the current top two PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker as some form of retaliation for their continuing to server the US market. I suspect that PokerStars and Full Tilt will employ their massive resources to ensure they remain in the competitive poker landscape for the foreseeable future. Either way, the online poker landscape will continue to be a challenging one for smaller operators.