Could PokerStars Leave the Canadian market?

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In a very important piece of news, the Amaya Gaming Group purchased PokerStars and Full Tilt, the two largest online poker sites in the world, not that long ago.

A lot of people have speculated that Amaya will pull these two sites out of the Canadian market because of things that have happened in the past in somewhat similar situations. PokerStars has also withdrawn its backing for Montreal Poker Festival in a bizarre move that’s said to be because of “unforeseen circumstances.”

This is causing a lot of players to want to run for the hills, and it’s putting a lot of Canadian professional players in a bind because they would have to relocate in a major way if they wanted to be able to continue playing in their normal games. A good example is professional Ryan McEathron from Ontario, who said that he would likely play on smaller sites until early 2015 if PokerStars pulled out before considering moving out of the country in the spring to regain access.

In all of this confusion, it’s hard to get a clear signal of exactly what’s going to be happening, and while nobody really knows 100 percent for sure, there are a lot of signs that they are going to be staying put. For example, they started offering special tournaments only for Canadians who deposit. These are in the “All-In Shootout” which effectively just chooses winning players for all of the prizes that are given out. This is a pure chance-based game, but it’s still cool that they’re giving this incentive for Canadian players. In emails and other media outlets, PokerStars officials have stated that they aren’t going anywhere, and while that seems somewhat reassuring, it’s not necessarily something they will be able to hold to 100 percent just because they said it, and here’s why:

The Amaya Gaming Group is a publicly traded company. That means that they have to really stand strongly on the right side of the law, and it’s hard for them to deal in legal gray-areas like what online poker is right now in Canada. On the other hand, the big profits and the ability to make Canada the online poker capital of the world is another story, so it’s hard to say which is going to win out. It’s really interesting to see that the location of the company is having a strong effect on running their games in their own country, but the legal side of online gambling is strange at times.

PokerStars has been doing some events exclusive to Canadian players to try to drive home the message that it is proud to be running out of Canada now and that it is here to stay in the Canadian market. A lot of these events have been mentioned on Grizzly Gambling, but they include freerolls and other types of deals that give players extra value that they wouldn’t get otherwise. This is a part of their strategy to try to keep players from leaving by the dozens, and it’s hard to tell if it’s a strategy that’s working for them at this time.