For the first time, two state-operated online poker sites will share their player pools across national borders, after Austria’s Win2Day and Finland’s Veikkaus merged their networks last week.
Both sites are powered by the Playtech software engine, and are operated by their country’s respective federal governments.
The Austrian Ministry of Finance agreed to the liquidity sharing plan – which permits players in one country to compete against peers from the other – on August 8 of last year. That approval was followed by the Finnish Ministry of Interior on December 8, paving the way for last week’s launch.
Previously, players on the Veikkaus platform were effectively cordoned off, permitted to play against fellow Finns only, while Win2Day imposed the same restrictions on Austrians. The liquidity sharing scheme effectively breaks those borders down, expanding the player pool by enabling Finns to play alongside Austrians, and vice-versa.
In a jointly issued press release announcing the new network’s debut, Timo Kiiskinen – senior vice president of Veikkaus – praised the new platform’s early returns:
“We are extremely happy with the overall product and the network’s performance so far, and are delighted to have launched on schedule.
This is a great venture between ourselves, win2day and Playtech and we’re sure it will be a great success.”
Win2Day’s managing director Martin Jekl offered his take on the improved user experience offered by shared player pools:
“Working with Veikkaus and Playtech has been a seamless process and we are very pleased with the results of the network in the first few days since launch.
Our customers now have access to the best and most responsible poker experience on the market and we look forward to seeing what the rest of the year will bring.”
Shimon Akad, chief operating officer for Playtech, pointed to the historic nature of the cross-jurisdictional arrangement:
“This is a milestone in poker and the gaming industry.
We’re delighted to be at the heart of yet another industry-first providing two great brands with the leading poker network and a series of leading products that I’m confident will prove a huge success going forward.”
Back in September of last year, the Finnish government elected to merge its three separate iGaming venues. Former online casino and poker operator Raha-automaattiyhdistys (RAY) was consolidated with pari-mutuel betting provider Fintoto Oy and Finnish-focused sports betting outlet Veikkaus Oy to form the comprehensive site in existence today.
The newly formed Veikkaus iGaming platform debuted on January 1 with more than 2.5 million registered users onboard.
That player base is now combined with the 800,000 registered users – of which 150,000 play poker exclusively – currently holding Win2Day accounts.
Both sites have prior relationships with Playtech, one of the world’s leading providers of online gambling software, proprietary products, and backend services.
The aforementioned RAY casino and poker platform has been powered by Playtech since 2010, while Win2Day has used the company’s software for the last two years.
To promote the player sharing agreement and merged network, the sites will host a cross-branded tournament on Sunday, April 9. Boasting a guaranteed prize pool of €100,000, the tournament will mark one of the largest played online within the Nordic region of Europe.
Another marketing tool used to bring the player bases together is known as Sökö, a variant of five-card stud poker played primarily in Finland. In the game of Sökö, players keep one of their five cards face down throughout the hand.