Bluff Gambles on Online Future
When Congress banned the transfer of money from U.S. banks and institutions to online gambling sites last September, the move effectively threw a wrench in the multibillion-dollar online gambling industry. The legislation left many in the industry shocked and their business models shattered. Not Eric Morris though.
Morris had founded Bluff Media in June 2004 with his friend Eddy Kleid, out of his own basement. The duo launched Bluff magazine—the first poker magazine of its kind—and BluffMagazine.com a year later. Turns out Morris and Kleid chose the right time to sit down at the card table, as they rode the poker boom that swept the United States that year and turned their cellar-dwelling operation into a cash cow.
“After the first issue we had an 84-percent sell-through rate, which is absolutely unheard of,” says Morris from the magazine’s offices in Atlanta. “We only had about 30,000 copies on newsstands and 90,000 total in distribution. After that issue we put over 100,000 copies on newsstands.”
Bluff’s total distribution today stands at 200,000—down from 250,000—“because of the legislation … a lot of our advertisers had to pull out of the United States,” he says.
While Morris admits that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act—signed into law by President George W. Bush on Sept. 30—became a reality sooner than he expected, his focus today is on positioning Bluff to overcome this setback. “The legislation has obviously affected us, but over the course of September 2004 to now we’ve become more than just a magazine. We’re a full multimedia company.”
What sets Morris apart from many other poker magazine publishers is Bluff’s rich, dynamic online presence, he says. The idea is for BluffMagazine.com to be every poker player’s online hub—for news, tips and analysis, and for finding the next tournament to play.