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Last week, PartyPoker solidified its stranglehold on New Jersey’s newly-forged iGaming market by penning a historic partnership with the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers.
The first of its kind in the US, Party’s alignment with two professional sports franchises will undoubtedly help to legitimize and spread public awareness of regulated online gambling.
But while the far-reaching benefits of such a deal are undeniable, I’d argue that the short-term impact will be a decidedly mixed bag, especially with regards to New Jersey’s online poker traffic.
Now that the champagne has been uncorked and Mike Sexton has posed alongside the Devils mascot, PartyPoker seems poised to reap the fruits of its new alignment via an aggressive marketing campaign and promotional devices.
Young attractive women, who may or may not know anything about online poker, explain the concept of the game to newcomers at special in-arena PartyPoker stations. Interested ticket holders can sign up for an account right there and then.
PartyPoker’s efforts extend well beyond the confines of the two arenas.
Devils listeners can’t go 15 minutes without hearing a PartyPoker advertisement on WFAN 660.
And as of January 13th, the first of nine Dream Seat Series poker tournaments will take center stage, rewarding winners with premium seating and VIP access, among other prizes, to sporting and concert events.
I’m of the mind that NJ.PartyPoker.com will only tout modest traffic gains over the next several weeks.
Yes, the increased brand recognition wrought by the alliance between Party and the Devils/Sixers will spark significant interest.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt that hockey, basketball and online poker share a strikingly similar demographic, primarily composed of twenty-something males…
…except when they’re from Pennsylvania.
Therein lies the first problem. While it’s impossible to know the exact percentages, I’d have to imagine that the majority of Sixers fans, and subsequently Wells Fargo Center goers, are from the Keystone State, not New Jersey.
It’s simply too difficult to envision newly-informed players traveling over the border just to play online poker. If they were that dedicated to playing, they’d probably already be making the trip.
It also doesn’t help when your arena is named after a banking brand that rejects iGaming transactions.
And given New Jersey’s five major poker sites and more than 150,000 total registrants, just how much bigger does PartyPoker expect the community to get?
The Garden State is currently home to approximately nine million people, more than a quarter of whom are under the legal gambling age of 21. That’s enough to sustain a sizable poker populace, but significantly fewer than what any of the top most trafficked sites have to work with.
Lastly, it’s unlikely that the traffic generated by the Dream Seat Series will offset the losses of the New Jersey’s Next Poker Millionaire and tournament dollar giveaway promotions.
Players love freerolls, but they tend to favor freerolls that award monetary rewards as opposed to prizes.
Case in point, this week’s Poker Millionaire featured a staggering 2,048 registrants, while the $5,000 Giveaway brought in 2,269 – by far the two largest tournament fields of the week.
If anything, in my estimation the upcoming Pokerfest: Micro Turbo Edition is going to drive more traffic to PartyPoker than the Devils/Sixers alignment.
But kudos to PartyPoker for kicking off a low buy-in series of events a week after launching its viral marketing campaign. What a perfect opportunity for new players to get their feet wet playing tournament poker.
According to PokerScout, over the past seven days the average cash-game volume on Party/Borgata was down from 280 to 260 – a modest 7 percent loss.
Numbers for this week’s Sunday 50k Guarantee were also down, and for the first time in over a month the tournament failed to exceed its guarantee.
While it’s still way too early to tell what kind of impact PartyPoker’s partnership will ultimately have on volume as a whole, the initial traffic surge that Party was undoubtedly hoping for may not happen.
Party’s foray into the world of professional sports will ultimately prove advantageous to the iGaming industry as a whole.
As more online gaming sites follow its example, the regulated gambling industry will gain a level of credibility and exposure it never enjoyed during the pre-Black Friday days.
And now that online poker advertising is part of mainstream culture, states teetering on the proverbial iGaming fence have one more reason to reconsider penning online gaming legislature.
This goes double for Pennsylvania, which now boasts an online gaming presence despite the existence of a regulated site.
To conclude: It’s certainly no guarantee, but PartyPoker’s new partnership could change the way legislators look at regulated gambling.
It just probably won’t have much of an effect on New Jersey’s online poker traffic right now.