New Jersey’s regulated online gambling industry launched in November of 2013, and over the past year and a half the industry has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs.
The downs get a lot of the attention, but there were certainly plenty of positives as well.
Here are my top 7 moments from the first year and a half of regulated online gaming in New Jersey.
Number 7: Jackpot!
The reason the typical casino-goer is willing to put $20 into a slot machine, or take a chance and hand over $100 to play Caribbean Stud is the same reason people will spend $1 a day on lottery tickets: The chance to hit a jackpot.
These aren’t professional gamblers, there are simply people willing to risk a little bit of their disposable income for the chance at a life-changing payday.
For online gambling to attract these types of people (small money, infrequent players) they needed to be able to strike the same tone, and in June Cathy Ruella showed the rest of New Jersey what was possible at the state’s licensed online gaming sites when she hit a $1.3 million progressive jackpot on an online slot machine at HarrahsCasino.com.
Proving this wasn’t a one-off thing, in February a New Jersey man won $1.5 million when he hit a Let it Ride jackpot at BetfairCasino.com.
These jackpots should be a terrific marketing tool for online casinos in New Jersey.
Number 6: partypoker’s partnership with Barstool Sports
The recent partnership between partypoker and Barstool Sports has brought a new edge to New Jersey’s online poker marketing, the kind of edge only Barstool is capable of bringing.
Instead of pristinely-worded press releases crafted by a PR department, Barstool’s promotion of their partypoker tournaments is about as subtle as a Muhammad Ali pre-fight press conference, complete with trash talking, individual challenges, and boasting.
In addition to reaching millions of Barstool’s readers, the blogs promoting the Barstool partypoker tournaments are not only entertaining:
“At my request we’ve upped the ante. None of this $20 dollar buy ins for you poor folk. 100 dollar ante… This is what I’m talking about. Business trip.”
“And for all you really super poor fools we’re doing 2 freerolls on the Monday and Tuesday before the tournament.”
They are also educational, explaining the current legality of online poker in the U.S. with statements such as, “The ONLY catch is you have to be in a Jersey zipcode to be because the government says you can’t make adult decisions with your money in most states.”
VIVA LA STOOL!
Number 5: Ultimate Gaming’s No-verlay Promotion
It wasn’t the most successful promotion we’ve ever seen, but Ultimate Poker’s No-verlay promotion was certainly one of the most innovative.
In the early days of New Jersey online poker, Ultimate Poker was struggling to compete with the online poker offerings of the Borgata and Caesars, so Ultimate Gaming decided to take a very bold step and effectively guarantee an overlay in every single (No-verlay eligible) tournament on the site.
The site was already handing out ridiculous overlays in many of its big money tourneys, so there was little risk in offering a full rebate of the tournament’s buy-in fee if it met or exceeded its guarantee (this was the crux of No-verlay), and after a couple of weeks No-verlay significantly increased tournament traffic at the site.
Unfortunately, once the promotion ended traffic dipped back to previous levels, and the site eventually pulled out of the New Jersey market, before closing down their Nevada operations as well.
Number 4: Crackdown on black market sites and affiliates
Midway through 2014, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement decided enough was enough and went on the offensive against black market online gaming operators and affiliates that were double-dipping and promoting both licensed and unlicensed sites in New Jersey.
The DGE’s crackdown produced immediate results as virtually every unlicensed operator either pulled out of New Jersey or stopped accepting new players from the state, and affiliates were forced to choose between promoting the currently less lucrative licensed online poker sites or mortgaging their future and continuing to advertise black market sites.
The DGE’s ability to crackdown on these unlicensed sites is a direct result of the legislation, which gave law enforcement the tools to go after these sites, and provided an actual penalty (the loss of affiliate licenses now and in the future) to affiliates who were skirting the laws.
Number 3: Partypoker partnership with Devils and 76ers
This promotion started off with a flourish but has died down a bit as the months wore on. Still, the partypoker NJ signage on the end boards during New Jersey Devil games and on the basketball stanchions at 76ers games is impressive.
This is a multiyear partnership and partypoker is still leveraging the partnership through their Dream Seats promotions and other marketing campaigns.
Number 2: The organized exit of Ultimate Gaming
The failure of Ultimate Gaming in New Jersey was certainly not a highlight for the U.S. online gaming industry in 2014, but the way the company exited from the New Jersey (and later Nevada) market was a positive development, particularly for jaded online poker players used to getting the runaround from failed and failing unregulated offshore sites.
When it came to Ultimate Gaming, New Jersey was able to turn a negative situation into a positive, and further legitimized the consumer protections of legal online gaming industry, which is precisely why so many people have fought for regulated online gambling.
Number 1: The transparency of the NJ DGE
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the transparency of the New Jersey DGE throughout.
Whether it’s the easy to access, and complete revenue reports, or their frequent press releases, or their availability to answer questions about iGaming even though it accounted for just 5% of total gaming revenue in the state, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement was a big reason for New Jersey’s successes thus far.