Copycat Tactics Haven’t Paid Off for US Poker Rooms

ultimate-poker-online-poker-300x215*The opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not reflect those of Bluff.*

Nevada’s online poker industry is coming up on its one year anniversary, and New Jersey and Delaware now have five full months under their belts and the industry has been steadily chugging along, making improvements and solving problems.

That being said, there is also still quite a bit of confusion among the masses when it comes to legal online poker in the US.

This confusion persists mainly because licensed online poker sites have been unable to elucidate their product to their potential customers.

Education is key

Education was an important theme at the iGaming North America conference, where the focus seemed to be educating potential players that legal online poker is now tangible in the US, as well as how to educate people in regards to geolocation and payment processing troubles.

Those are certainly important points of emphasis for the industry, but perhaps the most troubling aspect of the new online poker industry is the inability of most casual players to differentiate between a licensed online poker provider and an unlicensed online poker provider.

This is extremely troubling when you consider the unlicensed providers seem to have the better promotions, the larger player bases, and in many cases the superior software.

Consider this poll from Commercial Intelligence (CI) that shows 21% of New Jersey respondents said they are only placing sports-bets at “approved” licensed sites (see page 9 of the report).

The problem is, there are no legal online sportsbooks in New Jersey. If people are wagering on sports online they are doing so at an unlicensed site.

CI’s polling data shows 63% of respondents play at “approved” sites and 37% play at unlicensed sites, but their metadata shows a good percentage of these people simply can’t differentiate between a licensed and an unlicensed provider. In their breakdowns, people responded they use “approved” sites for everything from bingo to lottery sales and the aforementioned sports-betting, none of which are legally offered in the state.

So what can be done to educate potential players?

Marketing the differences

First off, the words “Licensed” and “Legal” should be front and center on all websites and marketing campaigns.

Instead what we have are online poker websites that are little more than carbon copies of the websites that have been used in the industry for the past decade, and marketing campaigns that could e switched with any unlicensed site’s offers.

There is nothing at, or, or, or telling me that I’m visiting a legal online poker room.

Marketing departments need to disassociate their current product from the previous itineration of the industry and make a big deal of the new licensed and regulated environment.

For instance:

How about a front and center disclaimer telling me what happens to my deposited money?

Or how about easy-to-find images and bios of the people in charge of the site?

Or how about simple infographics showing the security and player verification methods in place?

By copying the same marketing efforts and using the same deposit bonuses, VIP programs, and promotions you are essentially saying that there is little difference between a licensed online poker room and an unlicensed online poker room other than your fancy piece of paper.

If you’re just copying what is already in place than why should a potential customer choose your product? Especially when the original seems to have better deals?

My expectation was that licensed online poker sites would bring about mainstream marketing (such as the partypoker deal with the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers, or the deal with the New York Rangers) but for the most part it’s been the same old same old.

Sites need to use their legal status to their advantage.

Get some local celebrities together for an ad campaign that shows them playing legal online poker.

Or run an ad where two friends meet at a coffee shop and when the late arriver sits down his friend is on his laptop or phone and says “just let me finish this hand,” followed by an explanation that online poker is now legal, “you didn’t know that Bill?”

OR how about more images like this tweet from Ultimate Poker, featuring a picture of someone from the company about to mail $250,000 in withdrawal requests to their players?

Do something, do anything, that will tell people you are different.

Go negative

Politicians often talk about keeping their campaigns positive and out of the gutter, but inevitably, in any close race the campaigns will go negative, unleashing vicious attack ads in the direction of their opponents.

They do this for one simple reason: It works.

It’s time for the licensed online poker rooms to start doing the same to their shadowy cousins.

If at least 20% of the New Jersey population cannot tell the difference between a licensed and an unlicensed room, then sites need to start explaining to potential customers why unlicensed online poker rooms can offer those promotions and the risks these room pose to their money.

By: Steve Ruddock (7 Posts)

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