[toc]After nearly two and half years, I feel like it’s time to hand out some grades to the current and former online gaming operators in New Jersey.
Borgata has led the way in New Jersey since day one. This isn’t overly surprising, considering Borgata is the top casino in Atlantic City by a country mile. Because of the casino’s market position, it has been able to leverage its brick and mortar brand to prop up its online products.
Yet, Borgata hasn’t been able to pull away from its competitors. Golden Nugget and Tropicana have been extremely competitive with Borgata on the online casino front.
And with the arrival of PokerStars, Borgata has lost its key edge: having the top online poker platform in the state.
Bottom line: Even though Borgata has been the top revenue generator in the New Jersey online gambling industry, I can’t give it a better grade because the casino hasn’t exceeded expectations.
Final grade = A-
Of all the remaining operators, none has failed to live up to the early expectations more than Caesars.
Despite being partnered with 888, being the number two global online poker site behind PokerStars, and being armed with the powerful World Series of Poker brand, Caesars’ online poker room has lagged behind Borgata’s from the get go.
More troubling? Its online casino products have struggled.
Every other operator that launched back in 2013 has managed to consistently crack the $3 million mark in monthly iCasino revenue except for Caesars. In its defense, Caesars has been dealing with a bankruptcy filing and massive debt. With online gaming representing such a small percentage of its revenue, perhaps the company’s brass decided to focus on its other verticals.
Another reason why I docked Caesars points was due to its decision to take the over-performing Betfair under its wing, but only temporarily. The decision to let Betfair land at Golden Nugget likely cost Caesars at least $1 million per month in revenue. Instead of Golden Nugget bringing up the rear, it’s Caesars.
Bottom line: While far from a failure, Caesars is unquestionably the most disappointing of the remaining operators in New Jersey.
Final grade = C-
I didn’t give Golden Nugget an A. But if I were a baseball dad, and the Atlantic City casinos were my kids, I’d be most proud of Golden Nugget.
Reason being, not much was initially expected of the casino, which had been struggling for several years before Landry’s purchased the property and turned things around. Golden Nugget possessed a so-so brand and a decent, but largely unknown, platform provider in Bally Technologies.
Yet Golden Nugget has been at or near the top of New Jersey online casino revenue charts since it brought Betfair under its wing, which turned out to be one of the most consequential moves in the short history of online casinos in New Jersey.
Bottom line: Golden Nugget has done the most with the hand it was dealt, and its decision to add the wayward Betfair casino turned out to be a genius move.
Final grade = B+
Resorts got a very late start in the industry, launching a full year and a half after its competitors.
However, in just over a year, Resorts has proven that it’s in it to win it. With scant exceptions, its online casino products continue to grow month-over-month.
And with the March launch of PokerStars, Resorts is poised to overtake most – if not all – of its competitors when it comes to total monthly iGaming revenue in the coming months.
Resorts has also been an innovator in the market, launching the state’s first iGaming lounge back in April of 2015, and hosting an upcoming, first of its kind live/online tie-in event, featuring PokerStars Pro Jason Somerville.
Bottom line: Resorts is the real deal, and has put a lot of time, effort, and resources into online gaming. The casino’s efforts are bearing fruit.
Final grade = A
Name something Tropicana has gotten wrong in New Jersey?
The reason you can’t come up with something is because the casino has been the most consistent performer in the market.
From the outset, Tropicana’s online products have impressed, both in terms of their quality and their performance. A big part of the casino’s success has been its ability to keep everything simple.
Bottom line: Tropicana may not be the flashiest, or the biggest marketer, but the casino has been a pillar of stability in New Jersey.
Final grade = A+
Originally partnered with Betfair, Trump Plaza’s online gaming products never really had a fighting chance.
The casino was a whisper away from bankruptcy when New Jersey online gaming sites went live in late 2013, and because of the situation involving Donald Trump and his former casinos, neither Trump Plaza nor Trump Taj Mahal were able to add the Trump name to their online gaming sites.
So, unlike BorgataCasino.com and HarrahsCasino.com, Trump Plaza was forced to rely on BetfairCasino.com, a near universally unknown brand in New Jersey.
And somehow, Betfair made it work! It was one of the top revenue generating iCasinos from the start, and continues to be a serious player in the market.
Unfortunately, and to the surprise of no one, Trump Plaza closed in September of 2014, and as noted above, Betfair took its talents to Golden Nugget after a brief stop at Caesars.
Bottom line: Trump Plaza was behind the eight ball from the start in New Jersey, and was essentially set up to fail.
Final grade = F
Trump Taj Mahal
Trump Taj Mahal had the same “branding” problem as Trump Plaza, as it was prohibited from launching a Trump-branded online gaming site, and had to rely exclusively on its iGaming partner’s brand, Ultimate Gaming.
Ultimate did a lot of good things in New Jersey, hosting a number of cool promotional events, and creating what was perhaps the best promotion I’ve seen in half a decade, No-verlay. But if Ultimate’s marketing department was a Michelin star restaurant, its product was leftover McDonald’s.
This coupled with the lack of effort from Trump Taj Mahal was a recipe for disaster. When Trump Taj Mahal filed for bankruptcy in 2014, it forced Ultimate Gaming out of the market (something that seemed inevitable), and just a few months later, Ultimate also closed its Nevada online poker site.
Bottom line: Trump Taj Mahal’s heart just wasn’t in it, and despite Ultimate Gaming giving it the old college try, it just wasn’t enough.
Final grade = F