Friday, April 03, 2015

Forward-Looking With Amaya

I took close to an hour out of the day today to listen to that Amaya conference call in which the new owners of PokerStars and Full Tilt (since August of last year) discussed earnings from last year’s fourth quarter. Or rather I should say I listened to the sucker while performing various farm chores, as an .mp3 of the call has been uploaded here.

Chris Grove of Online Poker Report has also spent some time listening to the call, and in fact has transcribed the whole thing here, if you’re curious.

Among the headlines coming out of the call were CEO David Baazov’s statements -- “forward-looking” and thus subject to the usual disclaimers about such, natch -- regarding the future growth of poker (“we are still a poker-first business” he reiterates), as well as about other areas of interest for Amaya in the coming months and years.

“Our goal is to double the poker sector in the next five years,” stated Baazov, adding that the “three primary ways” Amaya aims to achieve that goal will be “entering new markets where we currently have little or no penetration in real-money poker,” “creating consumer demand and excitement through innovative marketing and promotions,” and “continuing to innovate the product to attract more players and reactivate lapsed players.”

Immediate response to the idea of doubling the poker sector within five years varied from expressions of doubt to outright cynicism, although if you think about it in the context of online poker five years is a lifetime.

Baazov spoke further of particular areas of the world Amaya desires entering, including those states in the U.S. with current online gaming legislation and those considering it (in which Amaya is actively lobbying). He talked as well about the other “verticals” including casino games and sports betting, the latter having only modestly launched in a beta version this week.

The other big headline coming out of his comments had to do with the declaration of an intention to enter daily fantasy sports, an area currently dominated by FanDuel and DraftKings. That latter intention obviously raises eyebrows here in the U.S. where the majority of us aren’t currently included in discussions of online poker or online casino games (and likely won’t be for some time).

CFO Daniel Sebag came on after that to talk specifics regarding the 4Q bottom line and what’s anticipated going forward, then Baazov hopped back on to talk briefly about the current investigation by the Autorité des Marchés financiers (AMF) regarding some trading occurring around the time Amaya acquired the Rational Group as well as the company’s application to be listed on NASDAQ Global Select Market. He also alluded to Amaya’s sale of the gaming machine supplier Cadillac Jack, announced earlier in the week.

The Q&A that followed touched on further specifics, mostly reiterating points made during the statements. There elaboration was made regarding Amaya and daily fantasy sports, with Baazov responding to a question by saying “the goal is to be up before the NFL season starts.” He also mentioned specifically the U.S. folks who were “formerly PokerStars players” and how Amaya is banking on “a clear, strong crossover with poker.”

It is always curious to eavesdrop on these sorts of discussions. And to look back on them at some future date as indicators of what a company was thinking at a current moment in time. You know, when backward-looking rather than forward-looking.

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