Monday, January 25, 2016 : PLAYERS ISSUE STATEMENT ON MEETING WITH AMAYA EXECS (Update)
No good news, says player delegation.
“We Deeply Regret That we Are Not Bringing Back Any Good News.”
The meeting earlier this month saw Pokerstars players Dani Stern, Isaac Haxton and Daniel Dvoress travelling to Montreal to face Amaya execs chief executive David Baazov; Shawn Nikolaev, Amaya VP of Operations; Eric Hollreiser, PokerStars and Amaya VP of Corporate Communications; Severin Rasset, PokerStars Head of Poker Room Management; and Baard Dahl, from PokerStars Poker Room in a discussion that mainly centred on player grievances over changes to the VIP and loyalty program scheme at Pokerstars.
Pokerstars ambassador Daniel Negreanu was pretty much the man in the middle, with his own opinions but an understanding of the attitudes taken by both sides.
The players' main priority was outlined in the briefing:
"Going into the meeting, our highest priority was to address PokerStars’ decision not to give the 2016 rewards they had promised to players earning SN and SNE statuses in 2015. We presented our view that the VIP program, as advertised on the PokerStars website until November 2015, was an agreement between PokerStars and the impacted players. We emphasized that failing to honor that agreement is not just a “miscommunication,” but an ongoing breach of trust. We reminded them that it is not too late to make it right."
During the eight-hour meeting the players were shown sensitive commercial information to underline the necessity for the Pokerstars decisions, and were therefore required to sign non-disclosure agreements preventing them from going into too much detail, but it is clear that they are unhappy at the company's refusal to reconsider or ameliorate its actions on the VIP and loyalty program dispute.
“Although the PokerStars and Amaya representatives were apologetic and expressed regret at the impact that the decision has had on players’ perception of the brand, we did not make any real progress on this point," the players report in the 2+2 briefing.
"They denied having any firm obligation to give 2015 SNs and SNEs the rewards they were promised and asserted that they did not feel that doing so would be in the best interests of their business.”
The players also note that they were unable to "get a clear answer" on whether the recent High Stakes Hyper Sit & Go rake changes were under reconsideration, although they were assured that the games were an important component in the Pokerstars offering and that there are no plans to do away with them.
The players' perspective on Amaya's agenda is spelled out in the briefing:
"As far as we could tell, PokerStars’ goal going into the meeting was to convince us that 1) There are problems with the current “ecosystem,” and that 2) The VIP changes will address those problems. We did feel that they made a compelling case on the first point. They presented strong evidence that something needs to change. We’d like to elaborate further on this, but we can’t say very much about the data they presented without violating the NDA."
That said, the players claim that they were not convinced on the evidence that the changes implemented by Pokerstars thus far will produce the desired results in either game ecology or the playing experiences of recreational players.
The briefing sums up the interaction thus:
"We tried our best to present both practical and ethical arguments against the SN/SNE cuts, but PokerStars is not willing to reconsider any of the changes."