PokerMedia Australia’s Managing Editor Ben Blaschke sat down with Martin Coughlan, Group Poker Strategy Manager for Star Entertainment Group, to discuss Star Poker’s ambitions for the next 12 months and how it plans to overcome regulatory hurdles that have been thrown its way.
Ben Blaschke: Thanks for speaking with us Martin. There has obviously been a lot of speculation around the future of Star Poker in both NSW and Queensland given the outcome of recent regulatory inquiries into the group. How are you viewing the short-term and long-term future of poker at Star’s casinos?
Martin Coughlan: We are very excited for the future, given the success we have had over the past year and the support we’ve received from Australia’s poker community. We will continue to focus on building our portfolio of major events and providing players with opportunities to play the biggest events in the southern hemisphere.
BB: We recently saw the WSOP Circuit event moved from Sydney to the Gold Coast. What was the reason for this move?
MC: The WSOP Circuit Event has been a massive success in Sydney and has been a highlight of the Sydney poker calendar since it was first hosted in 2016. However, with changes to how we conduct poker tournaments in Sydney (Ed: due to recent regulatory changes) the decision was taken to move the WSOP Circuit event to Queensland in 2022.
The Star Gold Coast is an exceptional property and has delivered some of the Australia’s largest poker events in recent years, so we were excited to add the first WSOP event in Queensland to that success.
BB: Should Sydney players be concerned? Will major tournament series return to Sydney?
MC: We’re overwhelmed by the support of the local poker community in Sydney since reopening post COVID-19 shutdowns. We appreciate their patience as we work through changes and find solutions that should enable us to bring the biggest and most prestigious poker events back to The Star Sydney as soon as we possibly can.
BB: Broadly speaking, what are Star Poker’s plans for 2023?
MC: Delivering bigger and better events, and building on the success of the last 18-months. Star Poker has three poker rooms, and we are committed to delivering the best poker experience at each property.
Planning is already well underway with our global partners on the 2023 major events calendar, with two WPT events already locked in and discussions with WSOP to commence after the Gold Coast series is completed. We will also be running with our Star branded events that have proven to be very popular with the players.
There will also be a focus on delivering a variety of weekly tournaments at each property that appeals to the wider poker audience, from the novice to the experienced player.
Looking further ahead, we’re excited about the opening of the transformational Queen’s Wharf Brisbane development, and how we can host major events there.
BB: Looking back at 2022, are you happy with what has been achieved over the past 12 months?
MC: Star Poker Sydney has had an amazing year – from hosting the first WPT festival in NSW, which broke the global records for a WPTDeepStacks Main Event, to the return of the Sydney Champs, which saw another record tumble with the Main Event surpassing previous numbers for both total entries and overall prize pool
Across our properties, and alongside record numbers, we’ve also been fortunate to be able to give back to the community. Throughout the year, we have hosted the Sydney FC Foundation Charity Poker Tournament, the Shane Warne Memorial One-Dayer which raised funds for the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital and more recently, supporting the return of the Deaf Poker Australia Championships.
What we have been able to achieve is the combination of several factors – firstly, the Australian poker community and their amazing support for our events. They have turned out in record numbers in 2022 and this is a great indicator of how poker is growing in Australia and the continued demand for major events.
Secondly, The Star’s broader vision and the support we receive from our management team to engage and develop partnerships with the biggest brands in global poker, which enables us to continue to deliver world class events.
And lastly, the Star Poker operational teams at each property, whose passion for poker is evident during each event and without whose hard work, none of this could be achieved.
BB: You’ve formed a strong partnership with the World Poker Tour and have rekindled the relationship with WSOP as well. How do you envision these partnerships growing in the future?
MC: Angelica Hael (WPT VP Global Tour Management) recently said in her WPT Australia welcome speech that “The World Poker Tour has found a home in Australia at The Star.”
We are very proud of what we have achieved alongside WPT in such a short time.
From the first WPT event on the Gold Coast in 2019, to hosting three events in 2022 and breaking global entry records, it is a phenomenal partnership and one which we see developing further with some exciting changes to come in 2023.
We are also very excited to support the inaugural WPT World Championship being hosted at Wynn Las Vegas in December, and we offer our best wishes to WPT and especially to the five qualifiers from The Star who will be participating in the Main Event that has a US$15 million guarantee.
WSOP is another great partnership and while we have relocated this year’s series to The Star Gold Coast, it is great to have the event back on the poker calendar and WSOP again associated with Star Poker.
WSOP is a massive success story, and we hope to continue to be a part of it well into the future, developing successful events that attract the best domestic and international players.
This year’s WSOP Circuit event is forecasted to attract over 5,000 entries and generate a series prize pool more than $5 million, as players strive to claim one of the twelve WSOP-C rings on offer.
BB: What is your long-term vision for Star Poker?
MC: We want to embed The Star as Australia’s home of poker – whether players are playing on the Gold Coast, Sydney or Brisbane.
We have been very open with our vision for Star Poker, which is to be the number one poker destination in the southern hemisphere.
To achieve this, we will continue to develop our offering and will continue to partner with the top brands in world poker, allowing us to deliver the biggest and most prestigious events in our region.