Industry Expert Slams New Jersey Online Gambling Launch
New Jersey launched it’s state regulated internet based gambling industry back in November 2013, and while it is currently the biggest regulated market in the US, the market is luke warm at best. Currently the World Gaming Executive Summit is being held in Barcelona, Spain, and the subject of this launch has come up for discussion. It seems that the expert opinion is less than celebratory about the launch, with one of these experts being quoted as describing how the golden opportunity was handled as “pedestrian.”
That expert was Bill Pascrell III, a professional lobbyist for the Princeton Public Affairs Group (PPAG), lawyer and political insider. Pascrell has been quoted as saying, “The reasons that New Jersey is the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to online gaming are multiple… The lack of familiarity between the land-based and online industry, which moves so quickly, has meant the marketing of online has been abysmal.”
He then added “We’re marketing to conventional buyers but the player for the future is 18-35 years old. We’re not data mining and we’re losing an opportunity to have a vibrant roll out. So in six months, we have a little over 500,000 accounts but participation is not as aggressive as many hoped,”
While marketing is not the only problem affecting the New Jersey online gambling market, it certainly is the easiest to correct. Other issues such as payment problems and geolocation glitches are not that easy to resolve. The banks for example are very wary of allowing gambling transactions, and universal support for online gambling financial transactions is a long way ahead of us. However, when figures such as those in the tweet below are shared, the lack of customer engagement in the Garden State starts to make sense.
— Steve Beauregard (@GoCoinCEO) July 8, 2014
According to Steve Beauregard, the CEO of GoCoin (a crypto currency provider), 63% of New Jersey residents are still unaware that online gambling is now regulated by the state. This is an improvement over the small Ultimate Poker survey done at launch, where around 90% of the people asked were unaware of the new regulated market. This number, which was re-tweeted by Pascrell, shows that there is still a very long way to go in engaging the New Jersey market.
Pascrell, however, sees the introduction of PokerStars to the state as an inflection point for the industry. “PokerStars coming to New Jersey – and they will – will be transformational for the state market and the national online gaming experience… The bottom line is that the rest of the online industry has had a six-month leg-up and they have not taken advantage.”
I have written my own opinions on the New Jersey Online Gambling market on more than one occasion, but they broadly agree with Pascrell. While the state of New Jersey has done a lot right in its launch, the operators themselves have been a big let down. Pascrell was quick to remind people that PokerStars had a hand in the regulation of internet gambling in the State: “For i-gaming to progress in New Jersey, it has to hook up with an uninspired land-based industry! Who will step up to be a leader? Let’s remember, if it were not for PokerStars, there’d be no online gaming in New Jersey – they provided leadership in the early days, moving the industry forward.”
Not everyone agrees with Pascrell though. Andrew Zarnett, Managing Director of Deutsche Bank Securities, was also part of the conversation, and he painted a different picture: “The problem with Bill’s argument is that it is almost impossible politically to split land-based from online. The politicians wanted to protect the land-based operators as that’s where the jobs are – and that’s very important to politicians. It’s inevitable that the politicians will protect the land-based side.”
Zarnett’s vision of the New Jersey market is one that fills me with fear for the future. If the political will isn’t there to support the state wide marketing that is needed to create a sustainable online market (especially for poker, which is very reliant on the player pool being big enough) even the inclusion of a respected and effective company such as PokerStars may not be enough to created that sustainability. I hope that people spend more time listening to people such as Pascrell, who seem to understand the industry, and less time listening to the Sheldon Adelsons of this world, who seem to be stuck in the past, afraid of taking the opportunities that technology is offering. Online gambling is here to stay, so the sooner New Jersey’s politicians and casinos accept that, the sooner they can create the first truly sustainable online market in the US.