As the power behind the affiliate programs of myriad major online poker rooms and casinos, Income Access is one of the most influential brands in the international iGaming ecosystem.
And now the company is looking to expand their sphere of influence to America. Registration as a vendor in New Jersey (under parent company Ecom Access) is likely only the first step of many Income Access will take in the regulated U.S. market.
OPR interviewed Nicky Senyard, founder and CEO of Ecom Access, for her thoughts on the New Jersey online gambling market, the role affiliates will play in the US and what states are likely to come online next.
Chris Grove: What are your thoughts on the likely revenue split between poker and casino games in the New Jersey market?
Nicky Senyard: Depending on the licensed content that will be made available to players, casino games stand to generate higher revenue figures, at least initially. Players will be looking online for games that they are accustom to using at land-based casinos, so operators will need to be cognisant of this and work towards making those titles available.
Poker is popular but in order to sustain a certain level of success the product needs to bring in more traffic than the typical casino game. One of the primary characteristics of a healthy poker database is having sufficient liquidity to be attractive to top-tier players. Where there is liquidity there are players.
Grove: What excites you most about the regulated market in New Jersey?
Senyard: New Jersey is the first sizable market to open up in the US and as a result it has been very interesting to observe from a regulatory standpoint, which up to this point has been fairly pragmatic.
Given the size of the New Jersey population and the available access to a wider variety of games, we expect to see an evolving legislative process. The state has an opportunity to set a standard when it comes to regulation and key success requirements, as well as change the public’s perception of gaming in the US.
Grove: And what are the two biggest challenges to the success of the market?
Senyard: The first challenge relates back to developments in legislation and regulatory framework. As much as we’re excited to witness the growth of this regulated market, it also requires that stakeholders remain alert and malleable to any changes that might impact how they maneuver in the iGaming space.
The second challenge is illustrated by the situation in Delaware with PayPal and certain banks denying credit card transactions linked to online gambling. While some institutions will stand firm on this for the foreseeable future, others are already talking about reviewing their options and adopting more lenient policies. As is the case with many subjects in the market, continued education will play an important role moving forward.
Grove: How significant of a role do you see affiliates playing in NJ? What sort of functions or niches do you see affiliates serving?
Senyard: The role of affiliates in the market will be an evolving one as many New Jersey operations will begin by focusing on their existing player databases and transitioning them over to online play. As the market progresses we expect to see third party acquisition strategies (Google, media, affiliates, etc.) play a larger role alongside the development of players that already have an established footprint.
Affiliates are known to be highly successful in three key areas: 1) third party endorsement 2) building brand recognition by getting prospective players to engage through banners ads and other marketing efforts; and 3) they have the ability to target niche markets that brands might not otherwise be able (or willing) to access through their primary marketing strategies.
As US operators become more informed of the true value that affiliates can bring to their acquisition strategies the expectation is that they will become a more predominant influence in the market.
Grove: Describe some of the adjustments affiliates will have to make in New Jersey.
Senyard: Geo-targeting will play a much more significant role in New Jersey than what we have seen with Nevada and Delaware. The state is already heavily populated and what is most important to note is how much of that is concentrated in border towns. The conversation isn’t new but New Jersey serves to highlight the urgency of sustainable solutions moving forward.
There will also be a heightened need for re-targeting capabilities to ensure that potential acquisitions have a better chance of being converted to real-money participants. Although not as pressing from a regulatory standpoint, it could play an important role in increasing the number of repeat visitors to a given gaming site.
Grove: To your mind, what are the biggest unanswered questions for affiliates wanting to take part in New Jersey’s regulated market?
Senyard: There is a lot of excitement surrounding the New Jersey market; however, as is the case with any new market, there a number of attributes that still need to be fleshed out. For New Jersey this includes player value and stickiness.
There have been projections as to the worth of the state’s online market but those figures will be re-evaluated numerous times in the months following the launch of real-money. A successful launch with proven customer value will increase the likelihood of future product launches and investment.
The financial viability of the market will also be dependent on player behaviour and whether the products they engage with provide sufficient incentive to be a recurring visitor. If US operators can find the right combination of player retention strategies they can then maximise their revenue potential.
Finally, there is the question of how affiliates will navigate the legal framework now in place. This means understanding what is required from a licensing standpoint prior to partnering with operators and participating in a regulated market. It also means being savvy enough to know which operators are pursuing affiliate partnerships and what type of compensation can be expected or negotiated.
Grove: What are the three states you’re watching for iGaming developments after the launch in NJ?
Senyard: Although it’s hard to identify three standouts, we are watching Pennsylvania, Illinois and California very carefully. California is the country’s most populous state and Pennsylvania and Illinois fall within the top six. None have New Jersey’s population density but this becomes less important when there are around four times as many residents, as is the case with California.
California is especially renowned for being a national trendsetter with a pioneering and forward-thinking populace. Online gambling could play a part in the state’s efforts to build a stronger economy by providing a reliable source of revenue, giving added incentive for regulation to take place.
In Illinois there is buzz regarding efforts to expand land-based gaming and see the preservation of the horse racing industry through advance deposit wagering. The state is also home to Chicago, the country’s third-most populated city, and could create a foundation for Midwest expansion.
Pennsylvania, sharing a border with regulated New Jersey and Delaware, represents a big opportunity for operators should interstate compacts be introduced in the future. Such compacts could allow players to interact with operators outside of their immediate state, an activity currently restricted by geolocation technology.
Although these states may not have been the first out of the gate in the regulated market, if and when they do enter it could be a real game changer.