Online gaming in India is recording explosive growth, with the total number of gamers expected to hit 300 million by the end of next year, from just 120 million in 2016.
According to figures presented at ICE Totally Gaming in London by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), gross gambling revenue is estimated at about $565 million, with fantasy sports and rummy making up the largest share with $260 million and $230 million respectively.
Adda52.com, founded in 2011, has been at the forefront of popularizing online poker in India and is the country’s largest online poker and card-game site, with more than two million registered users. It is also a founding member of AIGF and a working committee member of the Skill Games Federation in AIGF and Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
In August 2017, it was bought by Delta Corp, India’s only listed gaming operator.
Adda52.com CEO Naveen Goyal provided his thoughts to AGB about the growth of online gaming in India and the development of the market in a recent email interview.
Although skill-based gaming is technically legal in India following a ruling by the Supreme Court, there have been multiple challenges, while police in Kolkata and Bengaluru have carried out high-profile raids on poker clubs.
Goyal, who took over as CEO in September last year, says the police action has been focused on physical poker room setups and has not affected the online businesses. He argues strongly that poker is undoubtedly a game that involves skill.
“Adda52 is an online platform for poker in India. The company was started with a vision of transforming the landscape of online gaming, especially in the field of mind and skill-based games in India. Today online poker is not just an exciting game, but also helps to enhance one’s mathematical and observation skills. It is a mind sport. It is taught as a course in premier business schools in India like IIM-Kozhikode etc. alongside the other prestigious institutes like Harvard and MIT,” he said.
In 2019, the industry enjoyed strong growth, attracting both national and international players. Goyal says that interest isn’t restricted to major cities, with second and third-tier cities also seeing an increase in activity.
“All of this is a result of efforts put in by the brand, such as launching integrated brand communication, introducing new poker variants alongside product features on responsible gaming, creating unique and exciting campaigns for players during Diwali & December holidays, hosting the international poker tournament series of World Poker Tour (WPT) and so on,” he said. “Interest among women players is slowly catching up. Bollywood actress Minissha Lamba is a celebrity poker player who has been associated with Adda52 for the past few years and has been an inspiration for many women players worldwide.”
To allay concern about problem gambling, the company has introduced a “responsible gaming” feature that allows poker enthusiasts to keep a check on the game.
“With the help of this feature, for example, players can set the table blind limits.Once they set the limit, they will not be able to play any tournament or (Sit and Go) SNG whose buy-in is more than the set limit. Another highlight of this feature is the provision of self-exclusion. Using this option, players can exclude themselves from depositing and playing any game on Adda52.com by selecting the period for which they wish to be excluded from all gaming activities. This helps in ensuring that players can take a break whenever they wish to.”
As the market has expanded, so have the number of companies moving into the space. Chinese involvement has been particularly strong, with China’s biggest gaming and social media company, Tencent Holdings, investing $100 million in Dream 11, India’s biggest fantasy sports platform. Other companies that have received funding from Chinese investors include Gamepind, which is a joint venture between Indian company Paytm and Alibaba-owned AGTech Holdings.
Goyal says Adda52 is unconcerned by the entrance of rivals.
“Our focus is always on adding value to the ecosystem and enhancing the experience of the players slowly and steadily. Our competition in the market, in fact, helps us to be at the top of our game and bring innovation to our offerings.”
Despite now being part of a larger, land-based gaming company, Goyal says Adda52 has no plans to introduce physical poker clubs. The company’s focus will remain online and on improving the player experience through its "for the players, by the players" mantra.
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