More than a year after declaring its intention to enter the Indian market, PokerStars parent company The Stars Group moved one step closer to its goal last week.
In a scheduled quarterly earnings call with investors, Rafi Ashkenazi – who serves as chief executive officer for the The Stars Group – confirmed that the global online poker leader has agreed to partner with Indian lottery operator Sugal & Dumani:
“In India, we have entered into an arrangement with a well-established domestic licensed lottery and gaming operator, which will give our brand access to this highly populated market and the ability to build awareness for both our PokerStars brand and the game itself.
We anticipate the brand being launched in the second quarter, initially on the ringfenced basis, but believe it will take a few years for the business to reach profitability and for us to receive noticeable license fees.
PokerStars continues to be the leading promoter of poker globally and we continue to seek new ways to capture the attention of our target market with compelling campaigns and promotions.”
The news first broke courtesy of local news outlet GLaws.in, which reported that Sugal & Damani’s parent company Sachiko Gaming Private Limited recently acquired the PokerStars.in domain name. As is the case with Sugal & Damani, Sachiko Gaming Private Limited is under ownership by Sachar Gaming Private Limited.
Per the GLaws.in report, India’s Registrar of Companies (ROC) lists Hardik Parekh and Keval Parekh as Directors of both Sachar and Sachinko.
Sachinko describes the company’s objective, as required by Indian law, as follows:
“Doing business and marketing of online gaming platform and e-commerce trades with associates and direct customers.”
Sachar Gaming operates the rummy website KhelPlayRummy, and until the most recent development, operated the online poker platform KhelPlayPoker. The latter site has been shuttered, ostensibly to be replaced by the new PokerStars India product.
For the time being, visitors to the PokerStars.in domain will find a stock screen bearing only the words “Coming Soon!”
But according to unnamed sources used by GLaws.in, the site could go live within “the next few weeks.”
Back in December of 2016, as PokerStars confronted the imminent prohibition of online poker throughout Australia, Ashkenazi told investors that a pivot to India may be in the cards:
“We want to be there in time and we want to make sure that we are, as usual, the market leader when it comes to poker.
India could be a greater opportunity compared to Australia, and when we look at the player base it would be a bigger one. However, from the purchasing power point of view, India is quite different from Australia.”
We estimate the market in India to be anywhere between $80 million to $150 million a year. So, it will be bigger than Australia eventually, of course. But it will take time to build up this level of revenues from India.”
At the time, a report by the India Times revealed that more than 50,000 players in the country were signed up with unregulated online poker sites.