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PKR.com Passes on America for Real-Money Launch

25 August 2006

Internet poker players have been itching to play on the interactive 3-D tables at PKR.com with real money for several months, but while the site began taking deposits and real-money wagers last week, players in the U.S. will have to wait a little while longer.

PKR.com launched for play-money just over three months ago with several new and innovative features. Players can edit their avatars by choosing gender, complexion, face, hairstyle, clothing and accessories. At the table, players can prompt their avatars to laugh, curse bad luck, do chip tricks, taunt other players, and dance in celebration all with the click of the mouse.

PKR image comparison The author (left) and his PKR.com virtual counterpart after undergoing the site's "face-genning" procedure.

The play-money launch was an astounding success, with more than 20,000 people downloading the software to see what the site had to offer. After three months of tweaking, the site was ready for a real-money launch.

PKR.com had planned a worldwide real-money launch in conjunction with the end of the World Series of Poker this month, but the company changed that plan when the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and BetOnSports CEO David Carruthers was arrested in a Texas airport in the span of less than a week in mid-July.

PKR.com began running real-money games for customers outside the U.S. last Friday, but will wait for the Senate to act on the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act before allowing Americans to play for real money.

"It was a very painful decision," said Jez San, President of PKR.com. "But we thought it prudent to launch after there was clarity from the Senate."

That clarity will come on or before Oct. 6. The Senate is currently in summer recess, but when the legislative body reconvenes on Sept. 5 it will have only one month to move on the bill before the 109th session of Congress adjourns. If no action on the bill is taken, it will be considered dead and the bill's sponsors would have to start the process from scratch once again in the 110th session of Congress.

"It could go any number of ways," San said. "We'd rather be squeaky clean and never have taken an American in case it gets banned, and if it doesn't get banned, then we're ready and very keen to have American players. We have the opportunity to be prudent, where the people who have already launched and already taken Americans don't have that luxury, and the people who haven't launched yet have plenty of time. We're in that tricky time period. I think every single person in the company believes that we will be offering PKR to Americans, but no one can state with any certainty that the U.S. isn't going to ban (Internet gambling)."

While the politics of the moment prevented the real-money launch from going quite as San planned, the company is still doing its best to keep Americans on the site in this interim period. American players who had already downloaded the software were sent e-mails explaining the reasoning behind the delay, but were also informed about an increased number of freeroll tournaments with bigger prize pools.

"We're being open and honest about it," San said. "We're still giving away money to try to keep (the American players happy) under the circumstances, because we believe that we will be able to take Americans in the long term."

Launching a poker room can be difficult even under normal circumstances. Denying American players access to real-money games adds a substantial obstacle that could keep PKR.com from developing a loyal following, but there are other complications as well.

Since the software is truly unique, the company is building its own network instead of joining an established one as a "skin" site, meaning the network has to build from the ground up. As a result, it may be difficult for players to find the types and numbers of games they are looking for in the early stages of PKR.com's development.

"We're regularly having more than 500 people concurrently on a night, but obviously most of those people are free (play players)," San said. "We're seeing 50-100 (real-money players concurrently) in the first few days. It literally launched less than a week ago, and the numbers are increasing every day."

San says the number of real-money players has been growing by about 10 percent a day, and while he knows the site cannot sustain that rate of growth in the long term, he is proud to note the rapid expansion has all been through word of mouth.

PKR.com will begin a marketing campaign next month, focusing its efforts on traditional advertisements in poker publications, but also going outside the norm by sponsoring events such as The Bull Run, which is described on The Bull Run Web site as "an epic eight-day rolling party across the USA."

San believes that these efforts will help the site gain a solid base of European players before the Senate decision is made. If he can get enough Europeans playing on PKR.com, and if the Senate decides not to go forward with the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, American players may find that PKR.com has all the games they are looking for if and when the site changes its policy and allows Americans to play for real money.

"The people that are playing love it and there's more people every day," San says. "We're very encouraged by what we hear from the people that play. The pros should like it because there's a lot of fish coming, and the fish like it too."


AT OffSuite
PKR.com Passes on America for Real-Money Launch is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.