Borgata, MGM Brand Names Not Enough In NJ Online Gambling


What’s in a name?

Apparently a lot when it comes to building a brand. Consumers have proven to be incredibly loyal to certain brand names over the years. They might buy Coke over Pepsi, or Oreo cookies over the generic store-brand cream filled chocolate sandwich cookies, even if the latter are significantly cheaper.

The knockoff may look the same, or even match the quality, but people want the name.

Borgata a Powerful Brand in NJ

In New Jersey gaming, Borgata is the big, bad brand name. In fact, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, which is now solely owned and operated by MGM Resorts International after they bought out partner Boyd Gaming’s 50 percent share last year, has been the top-grossing casino in Atlantic City since it opened in 2003.

They got to the top of the heap by building the area’s first truly Las Vegas-style resort and casino. They’ve managed to stay on top by continually adapting to the changing wants and needs of the local customer base. Over the years they’ve built new restaurants, new nightclubs, increased the size of the East Coast’s premier poker room and added new games to the casino floor to keep things fresh.

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They’ve also been able to keep up with maintenance on the property so successfully, it looks nowhere near it’s age.

Borgata Online Offering Began at the Top

When legal and regulated online casinos and poker rooms launched in New Jersey in November 2013, having that Borgata brand name certainly helped. Borgata launched online casino and poker sites Borgata Casino, Borgata Poker, and partypoker NJ, all under the Borgata online gaming license. They were the market leaders right out of the gate.

Competitors came and went over the first three years of legal and regulated online gambling in New Jersey, but the Borgata brand held on to the top spot among revenue earning online casinos in the state as 2016 came to a close.

New Competition, New Hierarchy

Over the years, the New Jersey online gaming industry has changed pretty dramatically, but Borgata has stayed virtually the same. They did bring the Pala online casino and bingo sites in under their online gaming license, but other local casino brands have brought in outside properties as well. And, while other online casino sites have increased the number of games they offer exponentially, Borgata has pretty much stood pat.

Borgata is the biggest brand name in New Jersey poker by a long shot, but when the biggest brand name in all of online poker swooped in last year, they leapfrogged Borgata rather quickly in the local online poker market. It isn’t a market even close to the size of online casino games in New Jersey, but PokerStars now owns the poker revenue lead over Borgata, and has no plans to give it back.

Now, in the first few months of 2017, Borgata’s stronghold over the New Jersey online casino market has disappeared as well.

Golden Nugget Sitting Pretty

After giving Betfair Casino a new home under it’s online gambling license, inviting Pennsylvania casino SugarHouse to do the same, and becoming the first online casino to offer live dealer games, Golden Nugget crept up on Borgata throughout 2016. In March of 2017, Golden Nugget became the first to post over $6 million in internet gaming revenue in a single month, beating it’s own previous record of $5 million in earnings in February 2017, and holding the market share lead for the second month in a row.

Golden Nugget had added so many new games they were well on their way to passing the 400 mark. They hit that milestone earlier this month, and they were not the only ones. Resorts online casino and partner site Mohegan Sun also reached the 400-game mark.

Resorts on the Rise

In fact, Resorts, Mohegan Sun and PokerStars, all operating under Resorts’ online gaming license, managed to inch to within a couple hundred thousand dollars of Borgata’s March 2017 revenues as well. Now, as Resorts’ online offering continues to grow and Borgata’s stagnates, they are threatening to blow by them sooner rather than later.

Can MGM Brand Fight Back Online?

Of course, Borgata owner MGM Resorts International showed the industry a sign they weren’t going to take this lying down earlier this month. MGM announced it would be launching its own online poker and casino sites sometime this year under the playMGM brand.

The problem is the company also announced it would be partnering with GVC Holdings to build the sites. GVC is the same software platform provider already employed by Borgata.

It’s a move that smacks of a company that’s willing to trot out a carbon copy of its moderately successful, but quickly aging sister site, and hoping to coast on the strength of its widely recognizable brand name. After all, it worked for Borgata for a few years. Unfortunately Borgata coasted, and it’s clearly not working as well as it once did.

Borgata is still the big, bad brand name it always was when it comes to New Jersey gaming, and MGM is a huge name in gaming across the United States.

But the online gaming market in New Jersey is changing fast, and if they don’t find a way to keep up, names like Borgata and MGM aren’t going to mean what they once did.

Marty Derbyshire

Marty Derbyshire has been covering online gambling for various industry media outlets since 2007.

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