It looks like Monday is partypoker news day here at PND. Last week, GVC holdings, the parent company of partypoker, announced that partypoker has been granted a gaming license for the Italian market. The license is effective April 1st and the poker room has already launched in the country after a four year absence.
Right now, it looks like there are only cash games and sit-and-go’s available (I’m basing this on the partypoker.it website, not the actual poker lobby), but GVC says that the full tournament schedule will be available in the “near future.”
Italy has been absolutely devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Though the United States has 200,000 more confirmed cases as of Monday morning, Italy has 6,000 more deaths attributed to COVID-19. At 15,887, Italy has had more fatalities from the virus than any country on the planet. And keep in mind that Italy only ranks 23rd in population; the U.S. is third and the difference between the two is massive.
While nothing is good right now in Italy – and much of the world, for that matter – one biproduct of people having to stay indoors to mitigate the spread of the virus is that the online poker industry has actually seen a boost. It makes sense, as much as we wish the situation was different. People cooped up in their homes look for entertainment and one of those forms of entertainment is online poker.
It feels shitty to say, but this could actually be a pretty good time for partypoker to get back into the Italian market. Traffic isn’t going to explode or anything (PokerScout.com has yet to list partypoker.it in its cash game traffic rankings), but it should do better than it would have done a few months ago.
In a brief press release, partypoker managing director Tom Waters said, “Despite recent changes that restrict marketing in Italy, the poker market there remains an exciting opportunity for partypoker.”
“We will be looking to improve and expand on our product and offering over 2020 and bring a different option for the Italian poker market,” he added.
After getting all of its tournament offerings up and running, the next step for Italy will be to start sharing player pools with other countries. Currently, the country is ring-fenced. Italy did sign an agreement with Portugal, Spain, and France to share liquidity several years ago, but while the other three countries allow poker traffic to cross borders, Italy has never gotten its end of the deal going.
The largest online poker room in Italy in terms of cash game traffic is PokerStars.it, with a seven-day average of 1,700 players, according to PokerScout. That ranks it eighth in the world. The only other two of any sort of note are iPoker.it (750 players) and PeoplesNetwork.it (375 players). One would think that partypoker could at least do better than the latter fairly quickly and eventually pass the former, just based on brand name alone.