Branding Is the Difference in the New Jersey Online Poker Market

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What has allowed Caesars and Borgata to rise to the top of the pack in New Jersey?

Poker players like to tell you that strong promotions, VIP programs, and other player-friendly perks are critical, but some recently released polling results seem to paint a different picture.

US players are choosing their online poker sites based on brand.

A strong established brand is a huge benefit

A poll by Commercial Intelligence from January asked 506 New Jersey online gamblers what their favorite land-based casino brand was and here were their results:

  1. Borgata 34%
  2. Caesars 24%
  3. Tropicana 14%
  4. Bally’s 12%
  5. Trump Taj Mahal 11%
  6. Trump Plaza 4%

They also asked about online brand awareness, and the online gambling sites with the most brand awareness were:

  1. Caesars 78%
  2. Borgata 63%
  3. Tropicana 36%
  4. Golden Nugget 26%
  5. Trump Taj Mahal 19%
  6. Trump Plaza 12%

And here is how online gambling revenue looked in March:

  1. Borgata = $4.4 million
  2. Caesars/Bally’s = $3.7 million
  3. Tropicana = $1.9 million (no online poker)
  4. Trump Taj Mahal = $682,000
  5. Trump Plaza = $509,000

The outlier is the Golden Nugget, which generated $677,000 in revenue even though their land-based property didn’t garner a mention by players. However, the Golden Nugget’s online brand was the fourth best known according to CI’s polling numbers.

Need more proof?

Of the sites that have online poker rooms here is how they rank in terms of traffic, according to

  1. The Borgata ( and Average cash game traffic = 180 players
  2. Caesars ( Average cash game traffic = 120 players
  3. Bally’s (888 Poker) Average cash game traffic = 80 players
  4. Trump Taj Mahal (Ultimate Poker) Average cash game traffic = 6 players
  5. Trump Plaza (Betfair) Average cash game traffic = nonexistent

And here is how it looks all together. As you can see poker traffic and monthly revenue is directly correlated to brand awareness.


Other factors that contribute to a site’s success

Quality product is critical

If you were to rank US online poker sites based on software, you would see a close connection between software and ranking in the market.

In New Jersey the busiest rooms in order are:

  1. Party/Borgata
  3. 888 Poker
  4. Ultimate Poker
  5. Betfair

Based on reviews of their software, this is exactly how I would expect the sites to rank.

Branding aside, if an online poker company is going to do anything right it should be creating a quality software client, as there is no better indicator of a poker room’s potential than the caliber of the product they are offering.

Being first into the market can also help

Nevada’s online poker industry featured a staggered launch with Ultimate Poker gaining a six-month head start on their competitors.

Even though they have since relinquished control to, Ultimate Poker in Nevada is still fairly competitive, trailing in terms of traffic by 60% to 40%, and in terms of monthly revenue where it accounts for roughly 40%-45%.

On the other hand, New Jersey’s online gambling industry launched en mass, and there Ultimate Poker is bringing up the rear, as they are getting hammered by Borgata and Caesars in the market.

This would seem to indicate that being first in does have some advantages.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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