Potential Marketing Strategies for US Poker Rooms

DE gamblingStick a patch on an accomplished player; offer some no-name at the final table a take-it-or-leave-it sponsorship deal; throw together some “.net” commercial advertisements; and most importantly, team up with a number of online affiliates who will drive traffic to your site. This is how online poker rooms have marketed their product for the past 15 years, but all of this is about to change now that the US is legalizing (state-by-state) online poker.

With so many more options at their fingertips, and with battle-tested mega-casino’s now calling the shots, I’m pretty certain we are about to enter a whole new era of online poker advertising.

Sites Can Now Advertise That You Are Playing For Keeps

For starters, online poker providers will no longer have to hide behind play-money .net sites, with “wink-wink” commercials about play-money and hoping players put two-and-two together and realize that typing .com instead of .net will bring them to the real-money site.

Now that online poker has been legalized in some locales, poker rooms are free to explain precisely what you can expect at their tables and more importantly what promotions they have to offer. There won’t be any more sleight of hand about this is not a “gambling site,” and online poker rooms can let their potential customers know right up front that this is for real-money and you’ll be playing for keeps.

You can expect to see print, TV, sponsorship, and Internet advertising from licensed online poker rooms.

Brick & Mortar Marketing and Cross-Marketing

Since all licensed online poker rooms (at least in the beginning) will be run by brick & mortar mega-casinos these companies have the ability to market to their current customer base –a benefit that sites like PokerStars and Party Poker never had—as pretty much every player who has ever entered their casino is in their database.

Think of the possibilities, such as Player Rewards Programs sending out a $10/$25/$100 credit for their online poker site instead of the typical match-play coupons or food vouchers. Or conversely, the online site could reward their players with comped rooms and other benefits at their Brick & Mortar locations.

The possibility for cross-promotions is endless, and we’ve already seen that Caesars WSOP.com poker site’s VIP program will go towards attaining Seven Star status from Caesars Total Rewards program.

The Role of the Licensed Affiliate

Not only will the online poker rooms have more avenues to explore when it comes to advertising, but as we’ve seen in Nevada and in New Jersey, measures have been taken to insure that affiliates in these markets are also regulated and must apply for special licenses.

At first glance, the idea that we need to regulate affiliates seems like a bit of overkill, but as Jon Friedberg of AllVegasPoker.com (the first licensed affiliate in Nevada) stated in a recent article posted on CalvinAyre.com, there are a number of reasons for this:

“When I first encountered Nevada’s requirements for Affiliates to be licensed, I was both intrigued and confused… why would Nevada only require Affiliates to be licensed and not every entity that promotes online casinos? As I have since found out, the answer is quite simple.”

You can read Friedberg’s reasons here

Beyond safeguarding the industry, the licensing of affiliates allows these affiliates to do their own marketing, which gives the industry the potential for a multi-layered marketing approach.

Early Signs of the Marketing Shift

We are already seeing online poker rooms start to explore these different avenues.

The recently launched WSOP.com poker room has already indicated it will run satellite tournaments for WSOP live events, and with this week’s announcement that the WPT Championship will be moving to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City it’s expected that the partnership of the Borgata and bwin.party will do the same in New Jersey, running year-round satellites into WPT tournaments, specifically the three Borgata events: the WPT Borgata Poker Open, the WPT Borgata Winter Open, and the $25k WPT Championship

After announcing the launch of the WSOP.com website, Caesars issued a press release that had multiple paragraphs detailing their marketing push, many of which are already aligned with the methods I mentioned above — and yes, I did write that part before the press release was issued!

Here is a look at the marketing strategies Caesars outlined in their press release:

WSOP.com will also roll out a comprehensive marketing blitz to support the Nevada launch. The approach will be multi-faceted including online, offline and cross-marketing tactics. From television spots in major sports programming, to shows like Breaking Bad and Jimmy Kimmel Live, to branded room keys and poker rooms in our Nevada-owned properties, CIE will utilize a broad array of tactics to enlighten consumers and property guests of WSOP.com’s new product offering. As a proud member of the local Las Vegas community, WSOP.com will also support our local sports teams with sponsorships of the Las Vegas Wranglers & Las Vegas 51s and ad-support in the UNLV Rebels basketball telecasts.

So, it appears that Caesars will use everything from television spots to sponsoring local sports teams to market their online poker room. The press release goes on to detail how Caesars will also market towards their 44 million Total Rewards members and integrate their online loyalty program with the live Total Rewards system.

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