With a new year and some additional states legalizing online poker, Borgata ambassador Katie Stone is optimistic. Along with state-by-state progress, some industry growth and marketing efforts give her hope for good things to come.
With the industry seeing its first chance at growth in years, Stone spoke with USPoker recently about the industry. That included some interesting developments with the debut of the East Coast Poker Tour.
Garden State online poker and beyond
A regular New Jersey grinder and representative of one of the biggest live poker operators in the Northeast, Stone knows the market first-hand. At the tables, she has $177,000 in live tournament winnings but focuses much of her time online.
Married to poker player Joe Cappuccio, the couple has a 3-year-old son and they play full time. Pennsylvania recently became the fourth state offering legal online poker in the U.S. along with the New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.
Michigan and West Virginia have also approved online gaming, including poker. The continuing growth can only be a good thing, Stone says.
“I am very encouraged by what I see in the online poker landscape and the things that I’m hearing,” she says. “I don’t know anything specific about which states are up next or shared liquidity or anything like that.
“But just from what I’m seeing I just think that things are going to work out just a little bit better than everybody’s thinking.”
Borgata and MGM’s role in online poker expansion
Stone noted that MGM recently launched the East Coast Poker Tour and that could help with online poker as well. The tour features events at Borgata, MGM National Harbor in Maryland, and MGM Springfield in Massachusetts.
The events offer players some mid-range buy-ins and online qualifiers will be available at BorgataPoker.com. She believes that effort could attract newer and recreational players.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I think Borgata and MGM are going to be a bright light in the online poker industry.”
Those efforts include qualifiers for these mid-range buy-in events for as low as $10. Stone also believes there will be more tie-ins down the line with the property as well. That could include qualifiers even for the events outside of New Jersey.
“That’s something that I hope to use when it comes to satelliting players into these other live events,” Stone says of the qualifier focus. “Keep the initial buy-in really low, and the target tournament a little bit low – because you’re really pushing as many people into those events as possible.
“Ideally, I’d like to just have ongoing $10 satellites in to these $200, $300, $400 events. Because that’s really the people who make up the bulk of the poker ecosystem – in the low- to mid-range buy-ins. You need to support these players and give them shots. And you do that by offering satellites into good events.”
Growing the poker ecosystem
The synergy that the Borgata has developed, including its partnership with partypoker, gives Borgata a unique spot in the market.
The property runs several major live series throughout the year and helps foster a poker culture in the state. Stone believes that pays dividends in a live and online poker setting.
In an industry that needs more players entering the game to stay vital, she likes the efforts being made.
“I’m excited,” she said. “With Borgata and MGM … it’s just different. You have the WPT, and then you have partypoker, and then you MGM – there’s just so much going on.
“Everybody’s doing really cool things. I’m very much liking the direction of where everybody’s going.”
Pennsylvania and New Jersey produce nice December numbers
In December, Pennsylvania saw record online gaming numbers with revenue of $10.6 million, a 10 percent increase over November. Some of that can be attributed PokerStars entering the market through its partnership with Mount Airy casino.
Online poker produced $2.47 million in revenue, an increase of 26 percent from November – a month in which PokerStars only launched several days into the month in a beta mode.
Those numbers show Pennsylvanians have been open to online poker and giving it a shot. It’s also important to note that the state is not part of a shared liquidity pool with New Jersey as the legal debate over the Wire Act continues.
Speaking of New Jersey, December brought some mixed results in the Garden State. The good news was that online poker earning $1.7 million – more than a 16 percent increase from November. Poker is still down year over year however.
That December mark does make the first month-over-month growth in five months, according to PlayNJ.com. Stone is optimistic and believes a growing live scene at Borgata and other MGM properties make it a leader. She’s hoping that New Jersey growth continues.
More states getting on board?
The positive news may grow even more in the coming year. Three other states have introduced legislation legalizing online poker – New York, Nebraska, and Kentucky.
Adding more states, especially a populous one like the Empire State, could be a boon to the industry with more possibly getting on board. And in Pennsylvania, it’s believed WSOP.com and partypoker are both in the licensing process to launch in the state.
There certainly hasn’t been the speed of poker legalization that sports betting has seen. But that industry’s success seems to have spilled over to online poker. Players are hoping the pot continues to grow – and soon.