Of the multiple online booms that have been felt during recent weeks and months in the face of sporting postponements and cancellations, the perceived renaissance of poker has been documented far and wide.

Commenting earlier in the year that the vertical “doesn’t always get its due visibility,” CasinoBeats has caught up Manuel Lopes, CEO of Pokio/Qufan Technology, ahead of his participation at next week’s CasinoBeats Malta Digital.

“Indeed, online Poker experienced a recent boom across the board during the lockdown. This noticeable increase was expected and in many cases surpassed expectations. Whether or not the surge is sustainable is a great question,” it is said of the recent boost felt due, potentially, to mandated global lockdowns.

“It all depends on what efforts were made to retain those new users or returning users and make sure they stay loyal to the platform. Regulators like the MGA and others made sure that users were protected during that lockdown period and there was no attempt by operators to overly push these users to play and take advantage of the forced lockdown. 

“We embraced those rules and went with a long term approach that makes sure the users will play in our platform for its own virtues instead of a forced situation that neither the players or us can control. We’ve also doubled our efforts in terms of responsible gaming, knowing that in times of crisis players are much more vulnerable.”

However, with almost all rises comes an almost inevitable fall, especially with sports worldwide either restarting or developing strategies to resume action at the earliest possible opportunity.

“Interaction is crucial, that’s the reason the new social poker products … are getting so much traction”

Lopes continues by examining what could be done to ensure a significant drop-off isn’t felt in the face of such resumptions: “A slow down is natural at this stage as users have a lot more choice again particularly with sporting events. 

“However we have invested significantly in partnering up with live events in our own vertical by testing new cooperation models, hybrid event structures and original promotions that cross over to the realm of live play. Fortunately for us we are also a fully mobile product so our users can get the full Pokio experience even when attending live events and on the move.

“Sports are an essential part of the industry and we welcome the resumption of sporting events. We don’t see sports betting as a threat, in fact we don’t think that it was a major factor neither in the surge of online poker during the lockdown or in a potential slowdown after.”

With such a strong emphasis placed on interaction, a facet widely lauded as key in the face of the lockdown boom, how crucial is this to ongoing success and where do the next stage of innovations regarding such interactivity come from.

“Interaction is crucial, that’s the reason the new social poker products such as ours are getting so much traction. Users today are much more demanding in terms of features and at the same time Poker is a social game by nature. 

“There are several factors that will be in the forefront of this evolution such as integrations with social networks, sharing functions, in game animations that users can actually control or challenges between players.”

Whether or not the surge is sustainable is a great question”

CasinoBeats Malta has been transformed into a digital event on the dates of June 30 to July 2, with 120 high-level speakers from the worlds of payments online casino, slots, compliance and affiliate marketing will unite to share insights on 2020’s unique challenges and ideas about the long-term opportunities for the industry.

Lopes is to take his place on the ‘Poker: Gaming’s comeback kid’ panel session on Thursday 2 July at 14:20 – 15:00 (UK), examining a resurgence, the rightful place of poker in the modern igaming ecosystem, and how slots players, who are happy taking their chances with RNG gaming, can be encouraged to play more poker.

With traditional conferences not possible at the moment, Lopes ended the conversation by commenting on how important online offerings such as CasinoBeats Malta Digital are in the current climate: “I attend a lot of traditional conferences’ usually and I think that in the current climate an online alternative is especially important to maintain and expand industry contacts and interaction.

“With the existing technology the quality level can be kept quite high and the user experience is very fulfilling, in many cases I even think that it is more effective for the particular goals of the participants.

Adding: “CasinoBeats conferences are always extremely high quality. The panels, the delegates and the brands at these events are always top notch and they have been some of the most productive events I have ever attended, so the expectations are high. 

“I expect to learn a lot as I always do but also to connect with the right people in all areas of business that are of interest to me. And judging from past events and from what I can see so far that’s exactly what I’m going to get. Looking forward to this conference.”

Find full details of CasinoBeats Malta Digital, including information about how to register and the discounts available on company group passes, at the event’s official website

To find out more about the remaining exhibition and sponsorship opportunities, please contact [email protected].