888 New Jersey to shift to a Slots Focus following Poor Performance
888 CEO, Brian Mattingley, recently had an interview with Bloomberg, and during this conversation he announced that 888 New Jersey would be changing tack and shifting the focus of the online client away from poker and onto slots.
“We are absolutely shocked by the slowness of the market,” said the London based CEO during the phone interview. “The operators have not seen a positive response to their marketing campaigns, We’ve got to think again, the way we market.”
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement doesn’t allow unlicensed third parties to get involved in the marketing of online gambling, which has removed the option of the open affiliate model that has been so successful in other markets around the world. Mattingley said that the European version of 888 sees around 30% of new account sign ups coming from these third party affiliates.
The New Jersey market has been experiencing some shrinkage following the launch back in November. While the initial forecasting had potential revenue for Online gambling at around $1 Billion a year revenues across all New Jersey operators dropped to $11.4 Million in April and according to PokerFuse.com, the combine New Jersey Operators have lost over a third of their cash game volumes in the past six months.
The sites, including 888 New Jersey, have been blaming a multitude of reasons for the loss of players, including the regulator mandated rigorous sign up process, a lack of mobile gaming and the “grey” market of unregulated sites continuing to operate inside the state.
888 is now rated as the second biggest global site after PokerStars by Pokerscout.com, but they have slipped into third in New Jersey chasing WSOP and the Borgata/PartyPoker network. What they’ve been doing in the rest of the world has obviously not been working in The Garden State,
I have spoken to several New Jersey online poker players, and they have all told me that they have not noticed any significant marketing for the sites in the state, but they haven’t been into Atlantic City recently. While WSOP and PartyPoker have both run small TV ad campaigns they haven’t been on heavy rotation in the state, and seem to have had a marginal impact on player numbers. It seems that following this change of direction 888 New Jersey is going to be looking again at it’s marketing profile.
While there are some significant barriers to a large online gambling market in New Jersey, the impression I’ve been given is that the bulk of the failure should be laid at the doors of the marketing departments of the operators. Customer awareness seems to still be an issue. People just don’t seem to be aware that real money gaming is now legal and regulated by the state. Just after launch, Ultimate Poker conducted a survey in Atlantic City to see who knew that this new market had launched. 10% of those polled knew that online gambling had launched with the State’s blessing, and this was after millions of dollars in advertising and awareness campaigns.
It’s pretty obvious to me that these campaigns were ineffective. If people in Atlantic City didn’t know that online gambling was available, why would those who had seen a much smaller array of marketing? The good news about this figure is that there is a massive growth potential, but the sites need to learn how to key into that market. What they’ve been doing so far hasn’t been working, and that’s probably because they have been targeting the low hanging fruit. The marketing focus appears to have been in Atlantic City, and aimed squarely at those who already play poker, and those who are migrating away from the “grey” market to the newly regulated sites. By targeting these players, sites have been able to use small (relative to some marketing campaigns in other sectors) budgets to grab shares of the existing player pool. The thing is, this player pool is too small to support a thriving poker community online, and needs to grow.
While my professional marketing experience is coated in several years worth of dust, it seems to me that the way to grow a player pool is to go out and get people interested in the game, not fight over a smaller and smaller pool of players. The deal with PartyPoker and local sports teams was a good start, and is probably one of the reasons that site is the biggest in the state, but in order to bring large numbers of people to the game, a co-ordinated marketing campaign is needed. TV and Radio adverts can be very effective, especially if targeted correctly. A TV ad showing up at 3am may be cheap, but it’s also not going to be seen by many people. However, a radio ad put on during the 7th innings stretch of a baseball game on the New Jersey ESPN station could be heard by many thousands of fans. It’s not only the quality of the advert, it’s who hears it as well.
Still, the New Jersey market is young and has much to learn, as Mattingly said in his interview “It’s not even in its infancy, it’s only just been born,”