After several prosperous years in a partnership, two-time European Poker Tour champion Victoria Coren-Mitchell announced yesterday that she had terminated her sponsorship deal with the #1 online poker site in the industry, PokerStars.
Last Friday, PokerStars’ ownership, Amaya Gaming, announced that they would be expanding their poker client to include a full range of online casino gaming. Coren-Mitchell remarked on her blog announcing her departure, “As a result (of the introduction of casino gaming), on Saturday morning, I terminated my endorsement contract with them.”
“Their news was very sudden, so I didn’t have much time to consider my position,” Coren-Mitchell stated, “but I knew I had to act quickly before I could think better of it. Obviously this is a scary and sad decision for me to make. I have been with PokerStars since 2007 and Team Pro has been a core part of my identity. Obviously I will miss the money and am nervous of managing without it. Also, ironically enough, my plan for the next year or two had been to travel less and play more online.”
Coren-Mitchell went into great detail in discussing with her readers her reasoning for leaving PokerStars after their latest changes. “(My departure) is no criticism of PokerStars itself,” Coren-Mitchell wrote. “Business is business…they are providing a new service that people want and I know they intend to abide by some key principles of responsible gaming. I am not anti-casino, either; I spend a lot of time in casinos and I have been known to indulge in live table gaming.”
“I cannot professionally and publicly endorse it, even passively by silence with my name still over the shop,” Coren-Mitchell continued. “Poker is the game I love, poker is what I signed up to promote.”
Delving further into her thoughts, Coren-Mitchell stated that she is often asked about several of the more unfortunate sides of gambling, including addiction and losing all one’s worldly possessions (one of the more unique British terms – “going skint” – is used by Coren-Mitchell here). “I’m always careful to explain the difference between the essentially fair nature of poker, where we all take each other on with the same basic chance, and those casino games at unfavorable odds which can be (especially online) so dangerous for the vulnerable or desperate,” Coren-Mitchell explains. “Although PokerStars assured me I would not have to actively promote the casino arm, I know in my heart that continuing in my current role could risk helping to send people to a place where they would encounter something I think is dangerous. That’s not the way I want to make a living.”
Coren-Mitchell closed by saying she wouldn’t rule out working with PokerStars again “on something that is pure poker.” “There are no hard feelings between me and the company which has done so much for the beautiful game over the last decade,” Coren-Mitchell said. “This is a very sad and regretful day for me…I still believe that PokerStars is, at time of writing, the best place to play online poker.”
For the past seven years, Coren-Mitchell and PokerStars have seemed to fit together perfectly. Coren-Mitchell was the first female champion on PokerStars’ EPT circuit (winning the EPT London on her home casino grounds at the Victoria Casino in 2006) and, earlier this year, became the first person to ever win two EPT events when she took down the EPT San Remo in Italy in April. Since 2007, Coren-Mitchell has been at the forefront of Team PokerStars Pro as an active participant in both their live and online efforts. Those efforts have allowed Coren-Mitchell to earn nearly $2.5 million in career tournament poker earnings and PokerStars to have one of the top female poker professionals in the world as a very visible member of their team.
Kudos have to be extended to Coren-Mitchell for standing by her beliefs in what was obviously a very difficult decision. We often hear of players lamenting the life of a poker professional, grousing about the degeneracy in the game, but we don’t see them putting their proverbial money where their mouths are and giving up a lucrative sponsorship or stepping away from the game. We also see players continue to support online poker and gaming companies with less-than-reputable practices despite their better judgment. With Coren-Mitchell taking the audacious step in severing her sponsorship with PokerStars – something that was obviously quite painful for her to do and perhaps just as painful for Amaya Gaming to let her go – perhaps we will see others take such stances when a situation presents itself.