Amaya Inc Changes Name to Stars Group
Pokerstars’ parent company Amaya Inc has completed its rebrand, changing the company name to Stars Group. After a controversial three years of ownership, the management look to be doing everything they can to hang onto their reputation.
A Bit of History
The story begins three years ago with the purchase of Rational Group by Amaya Inc for $4.9 billion. When this news hit the headlines, it was like a bolt out of the blue, nobody had any idea who these new players were.
The father-son duo of Isai and Mark Scheinberg had announced that they were walking away from the company they had turned into the most successful poker operator on the planet. Taking over was Amaya, headed by the relatively young David Baazov, a Canadian whizzkid with a reputation for an impressive intellect.
Baazov gave a statement to the media saying partly
“Mark Scheinberg pioneered the online poker industry, building a remarkable business and earning the trust of millions of poker players by delivering the industry’s best game experiences, customer service and online security. Working with the experienced executive team at Rational Group, Amaya will continue that tradition of excellence and accelerate growth into new markets and verticals.”
It didn’t take long, however, before the honeymoon period was over when controversy after controversy began to happen. Amaya Inc was now the largest publicly-traded online gaming company in the world and they behaved as if they were untouchable with their massive market share.
They did start off with some good news for the poker community, though. The purchase of Full Tilt Poker, and reimbursement of almost all players funds was welcomed by everyone. For a fleeting moment, there was even rumours that regulation for online poker throughout the USA wasn’t far away and we would soon see a return to the games of pre-Black Friday. Of course, now we all know that was just a pipe dream.
The Downfall Begins
A huge part of Pokerstars’ success over the years was that the Scheinberg family were poker players themselves, and knew exactly what they needed to offer. There is also the factor of personal pride in the company they had created; it was their baby. Amaya Inc, however, was nothing more than a faceless corporate entity, with nothing but their bottom line at the top of their priority list. And it showed, really fast.
Within weeks of the takeover being completed there was a press release stating that Pokerstars would be rolling out a new casino on its software client. Team Pokerstars Pro Vicky Coren – a double European Poker Tour Main Event winner – immediately resigned from her position. She said
“On Friday night, PokerStars.com announced that it would be rolling out online casino gaming alongside its Internet poker. As a result, on Saturday morning, I terminated my endorsement contract with them. It’s not anti-casino either; I spent a lot of time in casinos, and I have been known to indulge in live table gaming. But I cannot professionally and publicly endorse it, even passively by silence with my name still over the shop.”
Even though poker players are gamblers, strictly speaking, there is still the fact that we are competing in a skill based game. With Amaya Inc trying to take advantage in the hope that players on tilt will spew off even more money after a big loss, it was too much to stomach
Then, of course, came the decimation of what was considered the best VIP scheme online. Initially announcing they would end the Supernova VIP level within months, they were forced to backtrack a little, but it made no difference. Their mind was set.
Weeks ago, we saw the cumulation of their efforts to squeeze every last drop of profit from their customers with a new scheme offering but a fraction of what was previously available.
Time for the Boss to Go
With their reputation in tatters, and it looking like it couldn’t get any worse, news came out that Amaya Inc’s founder and CEO was facing charges of insider trading. There can’t be any worse slight on a businessman’s reputation than this. Aiding financial trades with privileged information, and attempting to influence the price of his own company are serious charges which could result in a lengthy stay behind bars.
Baazov goes to trial in November 2017, which is expected to last 13 weeks. More than 50 witnesses are lined up to be called. He was also forced out of his position on the company board.
That wasn’t the end of the story though. Later Baazov attempted to purchase enough shares to attempt to take the company private once more. Under his control. This failed after Amaya Inc’s creditors threatened to invoke a cause which would have led to favourable repayment conditions being revoked. And so, with Baazov’s ambitions being thwarted, he sold off around 20 million shares and walked away to concentrate on staying out of prison for the next few years.
Still the Same Company; Same People
The rebrand comes with a new website in the hope that a completely new image can be portrayed. Wishful thinking really. There new mission statement reads
“The Stars Group is the ultimate owner of industry leading gaming brands including PokerStars, PokerStars Casino, BetStars, Full Tilt, PokerStars Championship, PokerStars Festival and MEGASTACK. Collectively, these brands have more than 111 million registered customers, forming one of the largest online gaming businesses in the world.
We provide gaming experiences designed to make our platforms the favorite iGaming destinations for customers everywhere by providing technology-based products and services in the global gaming and interactive entertainment industries. As game designers and regulatory champions, we want to lead the industry by putting our players first, working with local and global government regulators to establish safe and licensed environments that benefit jurisdictions and reward responsible operators.”
It’s too early to tell how much of an effect all this will have. With the rise of 888 Poker and Partypoker in recent times, it’s possible that they see a serious threat to their market dominance, and are doing everything they can to halt the charge.