Good As Golden Nugget: New Jersey’s Biggest Online Casino Surprise

Written By Steve Ruddock on July 14, 2015

Golden Nugget was a slow starter in the New Jersey online casino party, as the company experienced some early technical difficulties that pushed back its official launch date several weeks, allowing competitors to get a head start.

Because of this initial setback, and because the company decided to take a conservative marketing approach, it took Golden Nugget several months to get its sea legs, but once it did, the company has been one of the market’s true success stories.

Golden Nugget online gambling at a glance

The chart below shows Golden Nugget’s slow, steady progress, followed by huge gains after the company brought Betfair under its license in November of 2014.

golden nugget rev

*The red line on the graph illustrates a $1.5 million payout at Betfair in February of 2015. Click chart to enlarge.

Here is how Golden Nugget pulled it off

Limited brands

Golden Nugget decided early on to focus on a single brand, allowing the casino to avoid the redundancy and internal competition that afflicted other operators.

Later on Golden Nugget would drop this strategy and take on an already proven brand in Betfair – one of the best decisions any NJ online gambling operator has made.

Adding Betfair

Golden Nugget was well on its way to being a strong performer in its own right, but the casino was also the recipient of some good timing and fortune as well.

The wayward Betfair Casino was figuratively homeless following the closure of its original land-based partner, Trump Plaza. It was Golden Nugget that offered Betfair refuge in November of 2014.

Interestingly, other casinos passed on this opportunity to bring Betfair under their licenses, a decision they likely now regret.

This move ended up being a boon for Golden Nugget, essentially doubling its monthly revenue (Golden Nugget and Betfair produce roughly the same amount of revenue each month according to a source with knowledge of the casino’s revenue) and propelled them to the top of New Jersey’s iCasino revenue list.

Much like the arrangement between Pala and Borgata, Betfair simply operates under the Golden Nugget’s license as the company uses a separate software platform, paying a fee to Golden Nugget.

NJ online casino product was priority

Golden Nugget’s decision to pass on online poker seems to have been a wise one. Online poker is proving to be the far more vexing vertical in New Jersey and has been a leech on operators’ online casino revenue.

Beyond that, iPoker operators come under far more criticism from players who are much more vocal and willing to point out what they consider shortcomings.

By focusing on iCasino, Golden Nugget was able to focus its marketing efforts on a single vertical and avoid the critical eye of the online poker community.

Focused marketing

As noted in the opening, Golden Nugget didn’t promote its online casino as heavily as some others operators did. Instead it bided its time and used a more focused marketing approach.

As Thomas Winter, the VP of Online Gaming for Golden Nugget’s parent company, Landry’s Inc., recently told iGaming Business, “As our competitors all launched marketing campaigns at the same time, they really struggled to acquire customers cost-effectively.”

Upcoming challenges

Sometime before the end of the year Golden Nugget will be switching its software platform from Scientific Games/Bally Technologies to NYX Gaming, a move that can trace its origins back to the sale of Golden Nugget’s iGaming partner Bally Technologies to Scientific Games in November of 2014.

The split was mutual, with Winter calling it a chance to partner with a company fully on board with iGaming in US markets, something Bally Tech’s new owners, Scientific Games, didn’t deem a priority.

This change gives Golden Nugget an opportunity to grow even further, but it will also present a number of potential problems.

Golden Nugget will be the first New Jersey operator to move from one platform to another, and how its current patrons react to this change is anyone’s guess.

Golden Nugget will also have to deal with being the frontrunner, the company everyone else tries to knock down. Its innovations and business model have gotten it to this point, but it’s likely that competitors will now start copying what has proven successful.

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Steve Ruddock

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

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