[toc]After purchasing the iconic but bankrupted casino from Trump Entertainment, Carl Icahn’s Tropicana Entertainment has taken control of the beleaguered Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City.
The Taj needs a lot of work, and with a new lease on life, it will probably only be a matter of time before the casino joins its Atlantic City peers and launches a TajMahalCasino.com or TheTajCasino.com online gambling site in New Jersey.
You may have noticed I left the name Trump out of the hypothetical domain, since even if it wanted to, there are legal issues that prevent the Trump name from being used online. Donald Trump no longer holds any ownership percentage in the property, and lost the right to control the use of his name on the outside of the building following a previous bankruptcy restructuring in 2009.
Tropicana, which was also rescued from bankruptcy by Icahn, operates one of the most successful online casinos in New Jersey (arguably the most successful), so it certainly has the experience. Combine this with the brand strength of The Taj in Atlantic City and New Jersey, and a Taj Mahal online casino seems like a no-brainer.
If a Taj Mahal online poker site does become a reality, there are two models the company could use to deploy it.
Under the Tropicana NJ online casino umbrella
As mentioned above, Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City already has a thriving online gambling site (two actually) that are powered by its online gaming partner, Gamesys. Using the same software, Tropicana could quickly add a third brand to its lineup by launching a Taj Mahal online casino as an offshoot of its current iCasino products, TropicanaCasino.com and VirginCasino.com.
If this is how things play out, the revenue generated by Trump Taj Mahal would likely be added to the tally of Tropicana.
Go your own way
The second possibility would be to launch the Taj Mahal online casino as a standalone product.
In this scenario, Tropicana could enlist its current online gaming partner Gamesys to work with the Taj Mahal, or it could seek out a new online gaming platform provider with which to partner.
This seems like the better – and more likely – option.
It appears more probable because adding Taj Mahal as a skin would be fairly effortless, and likely would have occurred already. It’s better because it would bring a second operator license under Tropicana’s purview (each license is allowed to house up to six online gambling sites) and potentially diversify its product offerings with a second supplier.
A new partner would provide yet another benefit, as it would allow Tropicana to hold Gamesys’, as well as its hypothetical partner’s, feet to the fire. With competing brands, these companies would be forced to show their commitment and dedication to Tropicana and the New Jersey online market.
However, this option requires far more investment — investment that Tropicana Entertainment might not want to make for other reasons unrelated to online gambling.
Carl Icahn’s willingness to invest in an online gaming site might be tied to the upcoming elections. It’s not the presidential race, or statewide offices that has Icahn anxious; it’s a referendum question on the ballot in New Jersey.
Icahn was ready to pump $100 million into the Taj Mahal, but balked a bit when the north New Jersey casino referendum was approved for the November ballot. It should be noted that he has already poured an estimated $15 million into the property, but is holding off on the massive infusion of capital until the outcome of the referendum is known.
Icahn has made it very clear that he won’t be able to commit to such a large investment if the state’s voters approve casinos in north New Jersey.
Union issues will likely delay online action
Regardless of how that referendum turns out, a Taj Mahal online gambling site is unlikely to be a top priority at the moment. The Taj Mahal is currently dealing with a much larger issue, as the casino’s workers are on strike.
Not the first go-around for online gambling and The Taj
Under previous ownership, Trump Taj Mahal had partnered with the now-defunct Ultimate Gaming. The partnership dissolved in September 2014, when Trump Taj Mahal first filed for bankruptcy.
The bankruptcy was the official reason for the dissolution of the partnership and Ultimate’s exit from New Jersey, but the writing had been on the wall for quite some time; Ultimate Gaming and Ultimate Poker were not long for this world.
This was borne out when Ultimate Gaming’s moderately successful online poker room in Nevada closed up shop a couple months later, and parent company Station Casinos mothballed its online poker product.
From the outset, Ultimate struggled to gain market share in the crowded New Jersey market, and exacerbated the situation by pumping an excessive amount of money into its threadbare online poker room.
The inferior product, and heavy focus on poker, were only part of the problem. Another reason for Ultimate’s failure was the decision to forego launching a Taj Mahal-branded online gaming site (this was a multifaceted decision that could fill an entire column by itself), choosing instead to roll the dice on an unknown brand in a market full of known, trusted names — names like Tropicana.
What about online poker?
The Taj houses one of the best known poker rooms in the world (thanks Rounders!), so an online poker room would make sense.
The problem is, with the paltry revenue numbers being generated by New Jersey’s online poker operators, nobody other than PokerStars has been rushing to open an online poker site in New Jersey. Add to this the higher overhead online poker sites face, and it seems unlikely Tropicana is contemplating an online poker room for The Taj.
That being said, if the recent news of a liquidity sharing agreement between New Jersey and the United Kingdom comes to fruition, this could be a possibility.
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