Is Party Poker Poised to Become the PokerStars of the US?

PartyThe partnership of the Borgata and Party Poker is off to a fast start in New Jersey, with their and online poker rooms boasting an impressive 50% share of the market; the same share PokerStars had (only on a much larger scale)before they were forced out of the US on Black Friday.

In this column I’ll breakdown the impact of The Borgata and their iGaming partner in the New Jersey market, and what their early success could portend as the online gambling moves forward in the United States.

The PokerStars Void

When I say the PokerStars void, I’m not talking about Mark/Natalie Teltscher’s infamous PokerStars account, what I’m referring to is the void created by the absence of PokerStars in the US market; a void someone needs to, and will, fill.

PokerStars return to the US market via New Jersey was suppose to see the company pick up right where they left off on April 15, 2011, but so far PokerStars has been denied access to the new, licensed US market at every turn, including in New Jersey.

Nevada enacted a “bad actor” clause that will keep PokerStars out for at least five years; Delaware chose the tandem of 888 Holdings and Scientific Games as their provider; and New Jersey’s DGE has apparently put PokerStars license application in the same warehouse where the US government put the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones.

PokerStars denial of entry could be for any number of reasons, including the publicly stated concerns over Isai Scheinberg’s ongoing involvement despite being under a criminal indictment from the US DOJ, or their willingness to skirt US law from 2006-2011, but one possibility that doesn’t get much publicity is the possibility that the company is purposely being shutout of the US simply to avoid a potential PokerStars domination of the market –Which many people believe is the real issue the AGA and the land-based casino industry in the US have with PokerStars.

It’s not an unreasonable assumption either. Some industry people were concerned that if PokerStars was to be licensed in the United States (through New Jersey) they would quickly take over the entire market, with their brand recognition, deep coffers, and top-notch product, all of which their critics will argue came from ill-gotten means.

Based on the early stages of the New Jersey iGaming rollout, these fears of a virtual monopoly seem to have been well placed, considering another entity has apparently taken the first step towards the feared PokerStars market takeover: The Borgata and

Currently, Party Poker’s New Jersey online poker rooms are right where PokerStars was before Black Friday, with about a 50% market share in New Jersey. Furthermore, Party Poker is leveraging the same advantages that PokerStars would have: Brand recognition, deeper coffers than their competitors, and a superior product.

The Return of Party Poker to the US

The big question with Party Poker has nothing to do with its software, or the business model the company has taken; the big question was whether the company’s seven year absence from the US market would be too long a time, and whether all of the fond memories of Party Poker’s glory years may be forgotten.

But so far this has not been the case. It’s hard to say if people are flocking to Party Poker because of brand recognition, or if their software is simply that much better than their competitors in New Jersey, but players are flocking to the site, and it looks like Party Poker is positioned to become the PokerStars of the regulated US market.

The World Poker Tour’s potential role

Party Poker has already crept out to a sizable lead in New Jersey’s burgeoning online gambling market, but the company still has another Ace up its sleeve that it has yet to play; the World Poker Tour.

With the WPT Championship now moved to the Borgata, which will also play host two other WPT tournament series in 2014, the WPT will certainly bring even more exposure and more players to the and online poker tables.

There will be online satellites, tie-ins between the Borgata and the online poker rooms, and of course the TV exposure that comes with WPT events. Granted, the WPT is not as far-reaching as it once was, but there is not a doubt in my mind that Party Poker and the Borgata are going to capitalize on the WPT.

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