Inaugural World Poker Congress Aims to Unite Industry
By James Mc
The inaugural World Poker Congress was launched last month at Stockholm’s City Conference Centre, in collaboration between Poker Biz and River City Group. The event, which took place on June 27-28, has been considered a success after it attracted 160 attendees from the land-based and online poker industries as well as representatives from various ancillary businesses involved in the poker trade.

With concurrent themes covering terrestrial and online poker, attendees learned about each distribution channel, the commonalities between the two industries and the potential for further convergence. Much was made of the synergy that exists between the two in keynote speeches delivered by World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffery Pollack, World Poker Tour CEO and founder Steven Lipscomb and PartyGaming Marketing Director Vikrant Bhargava.

In his speech, Jeffery Pollack demonstrated his seven key strategies for the modernisation of poker, and with the World Series of Poker as an example, Pollack stressed the importance of utilising new distribution channels such as the Internet and mobile devices.

A second theme that was keenly highlighted throughout the event was that despite poker’s rather sudden and abrupt entry into the entertainment world, it is not a phenomenon that is likely to pass as quickly as it arrived. “People for some reason believe that one day online poker players are going to get bored and stop playing,' explained Vikrant Bhargava. 'But just because a large number of people started playing poker online doesn't mean it's a fad.'

Additional speakers representing Casino Cosmpol Stockholm, Grand Casino Helsinki, OnGame, the International Poker Federation, Sportingbet Plc, Boss Media and other leading organisations piloted breakout sessions covering key topics such as marketing strategies, legal considerations, management systems, mergers and acquisitions, player relations, televised tournaments and fraud solutions.

Industry representatives were also offered a unique opportunity to communicate directly with their customers during a roundtable discussion, which saw a panel of professional and amateur poker players voice their concerns about issues such as ideal playing conditions, player loyalty and fraud.

The success of the congress has seen the focus switch to next year, although River City Group and Poker Biz haven't yet announced plans for a 2007 event. 'We are encouraged by the enthusiasm both industries showed in Stockholm and

were pleased with the attendance numbers, which exceeded our expectations,'

remarked River City Group CEO, Sue Schneider. 'We will be communicating with participants quite a bit in coming weeks in an effort to gauge the demand for WPC 2007.'

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