The year 2019 was filled with astonishing pieces of news and landmark moments witnessed by the entire world. The gaming industry went through several ups and downs but eventually ended up well. The year opened doors for several platforms and development took place in and around the poker and gaming indsutry in India too. Here is a list of the top 10 gaming stories of the year 2019…
Kickstarting his year in a weeklong and the biggest series in the Southern end of the world, the 2019 AUD 10,300 Aussie Millions Main Event title was seized by Bryn Kenney, lifting a hefty bundle of AUD 1,272,598 (~INR 6.59 Crores) in prize money. Fate was in favour of the champion who turned tables in 2019 with plenty of major live titles. During the year, he also overtook Justin Bonomo to become the world’s richest poker player by boosting his total live earnings to over $55 million! A true poker star, the American pro landed in India too, appearing in Casino Pride 2 in Goa which hosted Emerald Poker Tour (EPT) back in September. Kenney would surely be looking forward to the 2020 Aussie Millions to descend on the Crown Melbourne from 4-24 January.
Back in March 2019, a budding fantasy sports company Fantain signed left-handed Indian batsman Suresh Raina as the face of the company across all brand communication campaigns. Currently, over 60 platforms cater to more than 20 million fantasy sports players in the country and here’s a new trend to assign brand ambassadors and cricket legends, namely Sourav Ganguly for My11Circle, Yuvraj Singh for the fantasy sports website BalleBaazi, Prithvi Shaw to FanMojo, Murali Kartik to Funtasy11, Pandya as brand ambassadors for HalaPlay and so on. The fantasy sports market in the country picked up with the launch of India fantasy cricket games during the Indian Premier League. Today, various sports games are offered through different platforms among which the most popular are football, cricket, basketball, hockey, and badminton.
Casinos around the world are already leaving huge impressions and attracting numerous tourists each day and there is no better way of doing that than by the size that they offer. In April 2019, Integrated Casinos Resort Cyprus announced the construction of the largest casino resort in Europe costing €550 million ‘City of Dreams’ that will be the centerpiece of the east Mediterranean island for increasing luxurious tourist destination, calling it the biggest investment project ever undertaken in Cyprus! Currently Europe’s largest casino resort is situated in Como, Italy called Casino di Campione spread across 590,000 square feet with 556 slots and table games. The project is enormous, requiring necessary planning and building which is said to become operational at the end of 2021.
Diving deep into Goan waters, the country has come a long way by accepting poker as a sport. The major casino rooms have been taken over by big names in poker like Adda52 running Deltin Royale’s room and Big Daddy by Team IPC. It was in July 2019 that the third industry leader PokerBaazi announced their latest tie-up with Pride Group which began its operations in the poker room at Casino Pride 2 vessel in River Mandovi, Goa. Baazi Poker Tour made a brilliant comeback after a 3-year long break, hosting the second edition of BPT between 9-14 October, wrapping up the action-packed week with great success. And that’s not it, the BPT series has once again inked the New Year’s calendars with a spectacular INR 7 Crore GTD, hitting the coast of Goa at the PokerBaazi LIVE poker room from 2 to 14 January 2020.
On June 27, the Stars Group’s segregated online poker room in the country, PokerStars India signed pro poker player Sharad Rao as the site’s first dedicated Twitch live streaming ambassador. Lining up after two big names in the industry, Aditya Agarwal and Muskan Sethi, Rao had been enlisted to promote poker as a skill-based game in the country. Hailing from Pune, Rao’s regular live streams caught eyes of the global poker leader, PokerStars India that entered the country in April 2018 has come a long way since then. They also assigned Bollywood star Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the site’s first celebrity ambassador earlier this year. The brand is also India’s first poker site to promote poker via TV commercials. The 24-year old Rao looked forward to changing dynamics of the poker industry and Twitch is one forum attracting a large audience that would help him share his poker skills to all those looking forward to the mind sport.
Mid-way through the year, MadOverPoker (MOP) in its latest ‘Summer Madness’ promotion made a shocking announcement of suspending its operations and deactivating all tournaments and cash game offerings on its client since June 21 due to “business reconstruction”. This latest operator that existed among the major platforms took a step back from the fierce market comprising of industry leaders such as Spartan Poker, PokerBaazi, Adda52 and so on. The CEO and Founder of MOP Amit Kanodia did not comment on the same due to NOC issues. The competition is however quite intense with the shutting down of several other online poker companies this year like Poker Raj and Purple Poker.
The glorious and the biggest poker event in the world, the 2019 World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas hosted its 50th Annual Event from 28 May till 16 July 2019, with the event bringing in the third consecutive magnificent bracelet home. It was our very own poker pro Abhinav Iyer who created history by taking down Event #84: The Closer and earning the best live score ever made by any Indian in the live felts across the world. Outlasting a field of 2,337 entries, Iyer triumphed the competition pocketing an incredible $565,346 (~INR 4 Crores) in prize money. The prestigious title that came home followed the footsteps of India’s previous bracelet winners Aditya Sushant in 2017 and Nikita Luther in 2018. Gutshot even featured him in the cover page of our latest print magazine.
Following an extensive internal review of Microgaming’s product portfolio and strategy, the supplier decided to close the poker network after 16 years of providing online poker solutions to clients. Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) surprised the world on 20 September 2019 to shut down the online operations on 19 May 2020. Quite a major online brand was operating on the MPN network including Grosvenor Poker, paf, CoolBet, betsafe and so on. In India too brands like Thrill Poker, PokerYaar, PokerNation and PokerLion were on the MPN network. Microgaming also hosts poker tours that visited Malta in October and the next stop is Madrid in Spain that will continue from 6 to 9 February in the coming year. Soon later, they also announced the shutting on their live poker tour.
Mumbai-based Dream11 joined India’s mushrooming unicorn club following an investment from the Steadview Capital through a secondary sale of shares in the range of $100 million. This fantasy sports platform became the first gaming company in the country to make it to the elite club of privately held start-ups which is now valued for over $1 billion. However, the year 2019 was also quite challenging for the company. A PIL was filed by Advocate Gurdeep Singh Sachar claiming that Dream11 is comprised of a game of chance and gambling and that the company was indulging in GST evasion. Eventually, a division bench of Supreme Courts dismissed the Special Leave Petition that dated 30 April 2019 which upheld the HC’s order that Dream11 hosted game of skills and paying 18% GST on the fees fetched from the player’s pool was appropriate. The overall scenario of the fantasy sports industry in India has been growing since the past decade.
The latter half of the year was a landmark day for the Indian poker team representing the nation at the 2019 International Federation of Match (IFMP) Asian Nations Club and Team India brought home the champion’s trophy! The global poker competition was played in the Taoyuan City in Taiwan for a 4-day long tournament from 5-8 November 2019 which observed 9 participating teams and India qualifiying on Day 2 with an impressive 763.5 points. Team India comprised of Aditya ‘Bitti’ Agarwal, Krina Gala, Prateek Mishra, Rishab Jain, Tanmay Bagga, Tarun Mundkar and captain Gaurav Gala. Match Poker is one of the latest formats and November saw another edition of the Match Indian Poker League (Match IPL) Season 4 which had three successful seasons in the past marking a successful run on 13 and 14 November 2019 in Mumbai.
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