Nevada went live with online poker months ago but for several reasons, people throughout the poker community, politicians and industry veterans have their eyes keenly focused on New Jersey:
Important operatives in the poker world have descended on New Jersey to observe and document this historic launch. Poker journalist and Friend of ADANAI (FoA – kind of like how that sounds) Marco Valerio has gone behind the scenes with Ultimate Gaming under the moniker #iGamingEast to give everyone a glimpse of how this is unfolding.
In this video, Valerio visits Ultimate Gaming during their first day in the office. Meet the people who will make this work:
Here, Valerio speaks with Ultimate Gaming CEO Tobin Prior about the launch:The current lineup of authorized operators looks strong with several ventures between land based casinos, global online operators and leading technology providers:
The Borgata (Boyd and MGM)
Technology platform: Bwin.Party (Partypoker)
Sites: www.borgatacasino.com, www.borgatapoker.com, www.nj.partypoker.com
Comments: Given The Borgata’s dominance in the market in poker and gaming overall, they should be the market leader. The strong brand and large player database will be massive assets. Partypoker still has brand value in the market from being the dominant online poker site in the US prior to 2006. As an example of their marketing advantage, The Borgata is hosting their Fall Poker Open until November 27th with daily tournaments attracting thousands of poker players – a great opportunity to market their online product.
Caesars Interactive (2 ventures)
Technology platform: 888 and Amaya
Sites: www.harrahscasino.com, www.wsop.com, us.888.com, us.888poker.com, us.888casino.com, www.caesarscasino.com
Comments: Caesars has decided to “run it twice” by backing two groups in the market. They will be using their own World Series of Poker (WSOP) brand and renting another license to a joint venture between 888 and Avenue Capital. Their WSOP brand will be a huge positive for marketing purposes. They also have a large database of players and the best rewards program in the business. As for 888, they have a ton of experience given their strong position in Europe – unclear what their marketing angle will be.
Ultimate Gaming (Trump Taj Mahal)
Technology platform: Ultimate Gaming
Sites: www.ucasino.com, www.ultimatepoker.com
Comments: Ultimate is an interesting one to watch. Their owners, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, also own the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) so they have a strong following in the core 21-34 demographic and tremendous marketing muscle (when Jon “Bones” Jones fights Glover Teixeira in Newark the Saturday prior to Super Bowl in February there is no doubt they will be heavily marketing Ultimate Gaming). Ultimate has taken the lead in signing up big name pros – Antonio Esfandiari being one of the more high profile brand ambassadors. Ultimate has been operating in Nevada for months so should hit the ground running without many glitches.
Technology platform: Gamesys
Sites: www.virgincasino.com, www.tropicanacasino.com
Comments: Gamesys has great technology and in Europe is a market leader in online Bingo. The Virgin brand name will be significant if Virgin like marketing dollars back this group. Early rumors are that they will be catering to casual poker players and not professionals and thus will use celebrities and athletes as spokespeople. Here is an idea for them: offer tournament winners free stays at Necker Island – nobody in the market can match that overlay.
Technology platform: Bally
Sites: www.goldennuggetcasino.com, nj-casino.goldennuggetcasino.com
Comments: Presume that their focus will be casino games given Bally’s huge library of slot machine content. Their poker product will be share the Ongame platform with Betfair.
Betfair (Trump Plaza)
Technology platform: Betfair
Comments: Betfair is a huge player in Europe but do not have much of a brand in the US. The US is a focus for Betfair so expect them to smartly spend money and be patient. The combined liquidity from sharing with the Golden Nugget may make their poker offering viable.
So how does this all play out? It is hard to say. Put traditional casino games like slots and blackjack to the side, as every site should do well on that front. Making money from people playing a house-edge game from their couch is straightforward. The more interesting issues surround New Jersey online poker. Is there enough liquidity in the state to make it work? (Liquidity refers to the number of active poker players on a given network. Since poker is a peer-to-peer game, a critical mass of active players is required for success.) If yes, for how many operators? It is unlikely five or six players can run a profitable poker platform in New Jersey alone (and adding Nevada’s liquidity isn’t likely enough either).
Amongst the current crop of competitors in poker, The Borgata and WSOP seem to have the advantage coming out of the gates with Ultimate Gaming right there with them. The big wild card is global online poker leader – Pokerstars. Currently they do not have a partner so are on the outside looking in. This could change as discussions continue but safe to assume all of the current operators hope the 800-pound gorilla takes its bananas and goes home. Only time will tell.
Shuffle up and deal!