Betfair New Jersey Outlook Uncertain

September 17, 2014
Betfair New Jersey Outlook Uncertain

Trump Plaza in Atlantic City closed on Tuesday after 30 years in operation. It was by far the worst performer in the Atlantic City gaming market. Several businesses tied to Trump Plaza are fighting to stay open. These include restaurants located on the Boardwalk, as well as Trump Plaza’s interactive gaming partner in New Jersey.

Betfair is operating under a temporary order by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. It is allowed to stay open for as long as Trump Plaza keeps its gaming license. For now, that outlook appears to be at least 90 days.

Betfair has been hovering around fifth place out of the six internet gaming licenses in New Jersey. It beats out sister property Trump Taj Mahal, which is partnered with Ultimate Gaming. It runs nearly equal to Golden Nugget in terms of gaming win.

Betfair has run into one situation that is unique compared to most of the other New Jersey operators. It is not allowed to use its Atlantic City partner’s brand for its internet gaming. That is because Donald Trump has not authorized the use of his name for online use, only for brick-and-mortar casinos. This left Betfair in a position of having to compete without a recognized brand. This is likely a contributing factor in the site’s performance.

Betfair Poker Biggest Disappointment in New Jersey

Five poker platforms were probably more than New Jersey could hand, but nobody could have predicted how poorly Betfair would perform. The site raked $1 in the 90-day period that ended August 31. Its lifetime rake is $49.

The site offers a great first deposit bonus in terms of rakeback percent, but it is just $25. The VIP program is reasonable at Betfair. It is in line or maybe even better than its competitors at some level.

So What Went Wrong?

Betfair uses Amaya Gaming’s Ongame platform. It was to be shared with Golden Nugget, which already operates a free play poker site with that software. Golden Nugget ran into some problems when the other sites launched in November 2013 and was forced to launch about three weeks later than other sites. When Golden Nugget received full approval, the poker room was not launched. This left Betfair to fend for itself.

Trump Plaza does not have a poker room to build any kind of marketing effort from, even though the branding issue may have created a problem there. Trump Plaza experimented with PokerPro tables from Pokertek in 2008. That test did not last one year.

Betfair did little to promote the poker room, even from the start. There were no large guaranteed tournaments, no $10 in free poker chips, and really just no advertising at all in general. Players flocked to Borgata and WSOP at first. The strong brands were a contributing factor as to why those sites benefited.

888 was able to gain some market share through aggressive promotions later in the game. This showed that a poker site in New Jersey is able to build a player base without having an Atlantic City casino name tied to it.

Once it became obvious that poker was not going to be competitive, Betfair may have just decided it to focus its efforts on casino games.

Betfair Casino Win

Betfair may be towards the bottom in terms of casino win, but that may be a bit unfair. Borgata has generated about four times the amount of Betfair from casino games, but Party Poker’s win is also under that license. Borgata’s brand is the strongest in New Jersey.

WSOP’s casino win is about triple what Betfair has generated year-to-date. This includes 888, Caesars, and Harrahs, as well as referrals from WSOP to casino games. Betfair is in line with Golden Nugget and Ultimate Casino, two sites that do not have multiple licensees under the same Atlantic City casino.  Tropicana is running away with this category of single-operator online casino brands.

Betfair’s Future is Uncertain

There is no telling what may happen to Betfair. Trump Plaza could get purchased and reopened. Betfair could find another partner in Atlantic City. The Division of Gaming Enforcement may create a scenario that allows Betfair to operate indefinitely.

One thing is certain. It would look bad for the industry if Betfair or any other interactive gaming company were forced to close in New Jersey because its Atlantic City partner ceased operations. This could give opponents ammunition to prove their point that online gaming may not be the answer to solving declining brick-and-mortar revenue.

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