Many online poker players in New Jersey are anxiously awaiting the launch of PokerStars in the Garden State. PokerStars brass has stated this will occur sometime in Q3 of 2015, putting the company’s New Jersey debut between July 1 and September 30.
The looming launch of PokerStars online poker room has also rekindled interest and speculation in PokerStars’ proposed $10 million live poker room at the home of its Atlantic City iGaming partner, Resorts Casino.
PokerStars is no stranger to this blend of live and online poker, as the company has branded poker rooms in three other locales across the globe: London, Madrid, Saint-Vincent (Italy), and Macau.
However, this project is far more ambitious, and PokerStars has a lot more on the line.
The Resorts LIVE poker room will be a direct reflection on PokerStars’ online poker site. Not to mention, PokerStars may find Atlantic City a tougher nut to crack, as poker in the U.S. is a bit of different animal, and Atlantic City has a pretty established poker culture and pecking order.
In this column, I’ll pretend to play the role of the poker room manager at the future PokerStars-branded poker room at Resorts Casino, outlining my plan for success.
Identifying the competition
A renovated poker room at Trump Taj Mahal
With the Trump Taj Mahal recently going through bankruptcy restructuring (and not out of the woods yet) the casino’s famed poker room went offline for renovations, supposedly to reopen sometime in July.
If the Taj Mahal reopens its poker room, it’s unlikely to challenge the PokerStars poker room at Resorts, or either of the city’s other prominent poker rooms listed below. The renovations needed to overhaul the room would require funds that a casino going through bankruptcy restructuring are unlikely to devote to poker.
WSOP.com Poker Room at Bally’s
One potentially real competitor is the WSOP.com-branded poker room Caesars recently unveiled at Bally’s Casino. With a similar ability to converge live and online poker, Bally’s poker room has the potential to make a splash.
The problem is, the poker room hasn’t even lived up to its meager expectations, let alone its full potential.
The current champ
And then there is the Borgata.
It would be no small task for the Resorts/PokerStars live poker room to dethrone the king of Atlantic City poker.
Borgata’s poker room boasts 80 tables, and has ruled the roost since it opened in 2006. The casino plays host to multiple World Poker Tour stops each year, as well as hosting several other major tournament series.
The real problem with challenging the Borgata can be summed up in two numbers:
- Borgata Casino 2014 Gross Gaming Revenue: $687 million
- Resorts Casino 2014 Gross Gaming Revenue: $139 million
So whatever PokerStars/Resorts throws out in terms of promotions, Borgata has the money to match them if it so chooses.
This is why my plan for PokerStars live poker room would focus on innovation and uniqueness.
If I were at the helm, the PokerStars poker room would focus on three things:
- Offering a great experience.
- Creating live and online synergy.
- Devising unique and inimitable promotions.
Step 1: Offering a great experience
This goes without saying, but far too often poker rooms are overlooked by casinos, and this simply would not be the case at Resorts.
Tableside dining, comfortable chairs, attentive staff, and utilizing modern technology would be a hallmark of the room.
The primary focus would be on delivering a good experience for high-rollers and low limit players.
Step 2: Create live and online synergy
It’s my opinion that Borgata’s iGaming partner, partypoker, has implemented the most grandiose live/online convergence marketing strategy of all the New Jersey online casinos. I would take those efforts to the next level.
Among its marketing strategies, partypoker reportedly sunk millions into a partnership with two sports teams, the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils, offerings players chances to win “Dream Seats” to sporting events and concerts in online tournaments.
More recently, partypoker NJ has been running online tournaments sponsored by Barstool Sports targeting casual players, which include real world prizes on the line, such as MMA tickets and more recently, a $1,000 credit to a NYC gentlemen’s club.
Partypoker has attempted this convergence without a brick and mortar poker room to leverage. Even though they are skins on the same network, Party is effectively a competitor of its iGaming partner BorgataPoker.com. So, Borgata’s poker room prioritizes BorgataPoker.com, not partypoker.
This wouldn’t be the case here.
Resorts and PokerStars would be a single online poker brand, and this would allow us to use both online and land-based assets in new and exciting ways.
Resurrect the NAPT
The first thing we would do is resurrect the short-lived NAPT (North American Poker Tour) and utilize PokerStars’ relationships with other casinos on the continent to turn this into one of the top poker tours right from day one.
This is a powerful list that already includes the Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens, San Manuel Casino, and Morongo Casino in California.
It would also include:
- The Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida.
- The Playground Club in Montreal.
- And of course our poker room at Resorts Casino in New Jersey.
Furthermore, one of the most prestigious tournaments in poker, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) could be rolled into the new NAPT, but the end-of-year Championship would take place right here at Resorts Casino.
We would expect the NAPT to be an immediate competitor of the World Poker Tour, and we would use the Resorts poker room, PokerStars NJ online poker site, and PokerStars global online poker sites to send players to these tournaments.
Live satellites to major online events
Another avenue I would want to test is the appeal of real world rewards.
There are countless online satellites to live tournaments, but nobody has tried hosting live satellites to online tournaments, or even something as simple as live and online satellites for European vacations that also include a tournament entry.
Instead of making the poker tournament the central prize, why not make the trip the big ticket item?
We’ve all seen people go bananas on the Price Is Right when they win cars and exotic vacations, so what’s wrong with offering a $10,000 vacation that also happens to include a chance to play a little poker?
Slot giveaways don’t reward players with tickets to use at other slot machines; they offer them cash or a car. Let’s do the same.
New Jersey simply doesn’t have the liquidity for PokerStars to run a $5,000 buy-in online tournament, or a $215 online tournament with a multi-million-dollar guarantee, but this is where PokerStars can leverage its stranglehold on global online poker.
I would want Resorts to offer a super-satellite in which the grand prize is a two week vacation in London (or elsewhere) and entries into five SCOOP or WCOOP tournaments.
And I would want the winner to come back having had the time of his life, whether he cashed in the poker events or not.
We would even run satellites that award a weekend in London (Newark to London is a mere seven hour flight, along with an entry in the PokerStars Sunday Million.
This would be an incredible chance to see how appealing land-based rewards are to recreational poker players, or if like some people think, they’re all about the poker. My guess is it’s the former.
Step 3: Launch inimitable promotions
The final aspect of my action plan would be to make sure our promotions are inimitable.
Anyone can lower their rake to $1 or run Happy Hours where VIP Rewards are doubled. At the Resorts poker room our promotions would be unique, and continue to create synergy between our brick and mortar poker room and PokerStars online poker site in New Jersey.
- We would offer $1 in rewards OR $2 deposited into your online account at PokerStars NJ for every hour of play.
- We would offer you poker room rates based on your online play.
- We would make use of our global sponsored pros and create exciting prize-packages from fantasy poker camps with Daniel Negreanu and/or Vanessa Selbst, to becoming Jason Somerville’s co-host on Twitch.
Are you ready to take on this challenge with me?
Tweet us at @PlayNJ and let us know what policies and promotions you’d implement if you were the poker room manager of the Resorts PokerStars poker room.
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