In this column I will cut through all the rumor and speculation and see which New Jersey casinos and their online gaming partners are poised to be ready for the November 26th launch of real-money online gambling in NJ.
Multiple casinos and online gaming providers are prepping their software and online gambling sites with the hope of being part of the official launch of the New Jersey online gaming industry, but it’s the following four partnerships that are the farthest along:
All four of these online casinos/poker rooms have not only secured a transactional waiver from state regulators (more on this below), they have also begun inviting players to test out their software during the soft-launch period and/or started to market their online poker and casino domains.
Keep reading for my thoughts on which of these four iGaming providers could have the biggest impact in the early stages of the New Jersey online gaming era—assuming the soft launch and licensing process for each property and its partners goes off without a hitch.
On Friday, November 8th, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) released the names of the companies approved for a transactional waiver.
A transactional waiver amounts to a preliminary approval that allows them to move forward in New Jersey while the DGE determines if their request for an online gaming license will be approved—all four partnerships listed above made the cut.
Any company not on the current transactional waiver list (names missing include the partnership of Resorts Casino and PokerStars, Wynn Interactive, Harrah’s Casino, and the Showboat Casino) are unlikely to be part of the official launch, but that doesn’t preclude them from launching at a later time.
The Tropicana seems intent on being among one of the first online casinos in New Jersey, and it looks as if they are on track to make it happen. But there is a major question that still needs to be asked: Will the Tropicana’s online casino offer poker when it launches?
The reason I say this is Tropicana’s partner Gamesys is best known for its online casino JackpotJoy.com, and has no track-record of operating an online poker room to my knowledge. Also, there is currently no mention of online poker anywhere on the TropACCasino.com website.
Taking all of this into account the smart money would be on the Tropicana being among the early operators, but not offering online poker until a later date.
Visitors to UCasino.com, the Internet home of the partnership formed by the Trump Taj Mahal and Ultimate Gaming in NJ, are now greeted with the following message:
"AMERICA’S FIRST LEGAL, ONLINE GAMING SITE IS BRINGING REAL MONEY, ONLINE CASINO GAMES TO NEW JERSEY. Sign up now to participate in our exclusive trial period starting November 21st."
While the site seems confident in its ability to be ready for the launch, I have reservations about how influential they will be in New Jersey’s online poker market.
The good news for the Trump Taj Mahal is that their chosen partner has been in the poker headlines for over six months now, as Ultimate Poker is one of two licensed online poker rooms in the US with any sort of track record in the regulated US market.
Another advantage is the partnership's name recognition and already having some good brands to work with (Trump and Fertitta), so you would expect UCasino.com to have an instant impact in New Jersey’s online poker market.
The problem I have with putting Ultimate Casino at or near the top of the New Jersey hierarchy is that Ultimate Poker has been a polarizing force in Nevada. While many players were happy to have a licensed online poker room to play at, many others complained about the site’s issues, ranging from geo-location failures, to inadequate software. UP’s early success could simply be a product of being the only option available, which will not be the case in New Jersey.
Proof of Ultimate Poker’s shortcomings can be seen in the data from Nevada, where despite a near six month head start, in less than two months the WSOP.com online poker room in Nevada has already surpassed Ultimate Poker in terms of traffic according to pokerscout.com’s data.
Finally, unlike other expected providers such as Party Poker or Amaya Gaming, NJ online poker players are going to be unfamiliar with the software in use at Ultimate Poker, which was developed by CyberArts, a subsidiary of Fertitta Interactive. When uCasino launches in New Jersey, it will be the first time NJ poker players have laid eyes on the Ultimate Poker software, and they may choose the more familiar offerings available elsewhere.
The Golden Nugget was one of the first NJ online casinos to rollout their play-money online poker room (powered by Amaya Gaming’s OnGame Network), and has setup its online domains, but unlike Ultimate Casino and Tropicana, there is no mention of the site being part of the soft-launch in New Jersey which begins on November 21st.
Instead, visitors to the GoldenNuggetPoker.com website are greeted with a “coming soon” e-mail signup form, which you can sign up for here.
Still, it looks like The Golden Nugget expects to be part of the first wave of online poker rooms and casinos launched in NJ; how big of an impact they will have alongside their better known competitors like Borgata or Trump is another question.
The Borgata is asking potential online poker and online casino players to sign up for more information about their real-money launch in New Jersey, where the website states that by signing up you will be the “first to know” when the wheels are spinning and when the cards are dealt depending on which boxes of interest you check: Poker or Casino Games.
It’s been a while since US poker players used the Party Poker software, and the software has undergone a number of changes since 2006, including a new color scheme, software upgrade, and rebranding efforts.
Party Poker is no longer the industry leader that US players knew from 2006, but the site is still one of the major players in the global online gaming market.
So what should you expect from the Party Poker/Borgata partnership in New Jersey? The Party Poker name is likely to resonate with a lot of US poker players in New Jersey, and with the most powerful AC brand (the Borgata) along for the ride, I’d be shocked if BorgataPoker.com, PartyPokerNJ.com, and BorgataCasino.com don’t quickly ascend to the top of the NJ Internet gambling market.