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And while the bitter taste left by the crippling defeats of 2006 and 2011 still lingers, online poker players can take solace in the fact that the online wagering market is on the mend, and may ultimately end up stronger than before.
New Jersey has led the charge, proving in the past five weeks that a viable online poker community can be sustained without an interstate compact.
But if 2013 will be remembered as the year of online poker’s rebirth, let’s hope that 2014 is the year that iGaming providers work out the kinks.
In this edition of NJ iGaming Weekly, we address some of the major issues currently inhibiting the user experience at online poker and casino sites in New Jersey.
Yes, some players are still experiencing geolocation issues and server disconnects, but they seem to be less prevalent than on Party Borgata’s closest competitor, WSOP.com.
Given its relative stability and brand recognition, NJ Party Borgata has emerged as the most highly trafficked site in the Garden State’s newly-christened iGaming market.
According to accounts on nj.partypoker’s dedicated 2+2 forum thread, more than a few players who have contacted support are experiencing exceedingly long wait times, both on the phone and via email.
One of the more frequented customer service threads lists phone wait times as over one hour, and clocks email response at nearly a week.
A representative from PartyPoker addressed the issue on December 16th, saying, “We are adding more reps to our workforce.”
Yet when I placed a call regarding a simple matter on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. (off-peak hour), it took nearly 30 minutes before I was connected with a customer service rep.
Even then, the basic question I had regarding a promotion had to be escalated. Other players are experiencing similar “forwarding and escalation” issues.
In order to sustain long-term viability in the market, NJ Party Borgata will likely have to do a better job enticing players to remain faithful to the site.
Common complaints include:
In order to earn $25 in rakeback at BorgataPoker.com, players must accumulate 483 iRewards points – 333 to purchase the reward and another 150 to unlock the full amount.
And that’s if you’re already a Black Elite member (15,000 quarterly points).
Considering that two iRewards points are earned for every $1 paid in rake, players must pay $241.50 to earn $25, equating to a relatively paltry 10.3% rakeback.
By accumulating points on a rolling basis, the rakeback percentage can be increased to 15, but never more.
NJ Party Borgata rakes .01 for every .18 in the pot, and charges a 9% or higher vig for Sit & Gos up to $50.
That’s more than what serious poker players are accustomed to.
Tie-ins to the Borgata’s live casino
While I commend NJ Party Borgata for its New Jersey’s Next Poker Millionaire promotion and upcoming WPT New Year mission, the site would benefit greatly from tying its players’ online reward status to their My Borgata rewards card.
Boasting the most varied tournament formats means little if players are experiencing widespread server disconnects, especially if they’re not being duly compensated.
I addressed WSOP‘s server disconnect issues in a prior edition of NJ iGaming Weekly, and won’t go into specific detail here.
In its defense, WSOP.com did offer players affected by its most egregious outage entry into a special, invite-only $20,000 freeroll.
On another note, WSOP would do well to provide players with a more efficient way of tracking their VIP status. Currently, players must be seated at a table to view their progress.
Even worse, 888poker has yet to implement a VIP rewards program at all.
This failure to address a fundamental player expectation has likely resulted in its less than awe-inspiring cash-game traffic as compared to WSOP.com and NJ Party Borgata.
Yet, despite the lack of a bona fide rewards system 888poker has strengthened its grasp on third place, largely due to its $10,000 Every Day Welcome Freeroll, $500 match first-time deposit bonus and stellar limited time 50% rakeback promotion.
Should 888 keep the promotions coming and add a well-structured rewards schema, it could be the first site to shake up the stability of New Jersey’s iGaming market.
Despite over 16,000 new account creations, cash-game traffic remained mostly static across the board.
888poker exhibited the most significant growth, while NJ Party Borgata touted modest gains.
Twenty-four hour peaks and average traffic as reported by PokerScout listed below:
In other traffic related notes:
Now that the holidays, and with them many welcome promotions and freerolls, are coming to a close, it will be interesting to see if the Garden State’s online gambling industry will continue to experience modest gains, or whether it begins to taper off.
It might depend on how well the powers-that-be react to player feedback.