With just over a month to go until the soft launch of regulated online gambling in New Jersey, speculation regarding exactly what casinos will be a part of that launch has heated up.
To date, NJ regulators have confirmed only that online gambling will be live in the state on November 26th (soft launch November 21st) and have given no direct indication of what brands will make the initial roster.
There are a total of 12 Atlantic City casinos eligible for an online gambling operator’s permit. The online gambling regulations in NJ do not require a minimum number of operators in order for games to go live in November.
No one knows exactly how many of the 12 casinos (four of which are controlled by Caesars) will be a part of the NJ launch. But nearly everyone agrees that it won’t be all 12, and most seem to believe the number will be four or less:
@joebrennanjr I was hearing 3-4, so you are even more cynical than me!
— Adam Krejcik (@akrejcik) October 4, 2013
Some reasons for the low-end estimates include:
Below I’ve grouped the 12 Atlantic City casinos into three categories – green light, yellow light and red light – based on how likely it appears that each will be ready to go on November 21st.
The Borgata / bwin.party – The Borgata recently received the first online gambling permit from NJ regulators – to great fanfare – making it extremely unlikely that those same regulators have substantial concerns about the company’s ability to operate online. And executives from all sides have sounded very confident notes publicly.
The one question mark remains bwin.party, whose software has yet to be tested in a regulated U.S. environment and whose contentious relationship with some international jurisdictions might give NJ regulators pause.
Caesars / 888 (WSOP.com) – Officials from both sides of the partnership have been very vocal in their assertions that WSOP.com – powered by the 888 platform – will be a part of the NJ launch.
With a successful Nevada launch utilizing the same platform under their belt, Caesars and 888 seem well positioned to go live in November.
Trump Taj Mahal / Ultimate Poker – Much of the same logic applies to Ultimate Poker, which has been operating in Nevada for most of 2013 without major incident. With the longest track record of any regulated online poker site in the U.S., Ultimate has to feel good about their chances.
888 / Wynn (AAPN, via Caesars license) – Things are tricker here, as the AAPN doesn’t have exactly the same track record as the WSOP.com product. Despite sharing a good bit of DNA, the AAPN platform and the WSOP.com platform are not identical. And the Wynn / 888 partnership was a bit late to the NJ party, at least based on the timing of the announcement.
Golden Nugget / Bally Technologies – With a play-money site already up and running (for over a year), this duo seems a natural pick for green light status. And the fact that GN received the 2nd iGaming permit from NJ regulators doesn’t hurt.
The only reasons I dropped them down to yellow: there’s been little public word from either side about launching in November, an omission that suggests the potential for a later launch of real money gaming. Also, the duo has yet to launch in Nevada.
Resorts / PokerStars – The great debate over PokerStars’ chances with NJ regulators continues. The company is not without its supporters in New Jersey. And PokerStars has appeared publicly and privately confident – for many months – regarding their ability to secure the necessary approvals from NJ regulators.
But not everyone shares that confidence. And the specter of Black Friday continues to longer over the process.
Trump Plaza / Betfair – One of the stranger partnerships of the set, as I don’t believe there has ever been official confirmation of its existence. But the group gets a yellow rating due to the fact that Betfair has rolled out some promotional efforts focused on NJ, suggesting there’s more going on behind the scenes than previously imagined.
Harrahs / 888 – As I understand it, Harrah’s will simply be a skin of the WSOP.com network (powered by 888). That means regulators will likely approve both simultaneously.
But I’m not sure Caesars will want to split their marketing focus by introducing Harrahs into the mix as a separate casino brand right off the bat (I assume that all Caesars properties will use the WSOP brand for their online poker rooms).
Tropicana / Gamesys – This comes down to a lack of public talk from the company, backchannel indications that the partners aren’t quite ready for launch and a simple process of elimination – after all, the DGE had to be talking about someone when they warned casinos about incomplete applications in September.
Revel – No partner, no apparent plan, no public indications of preparedness. Plus, slightly bigger fish to fry at the moment.
ACC – See above. Also, widely believed to be positioning itself for sale.
Showboat – Thought to be on the auction block as well. Seems unlikely that Caesars would put much emphasis on or effort into establishing the brand online.