Ultimate Poker Folds Its Hand in New Jersey

September 22nd, 2014 | by Kaycee James
Ultimate Gaming splits from New Jersey

Ultimate Poker struggled to find a foothold in New Jersey. The online operator has now severed ties with land casino the Trump Taj Mahal and the Garden State. (Image: calvinayre.com)

Ultimate Poker has decided not to see the river with its land-based casino partner, the Trump Taj Mahal, in New Jersey. Of course, this isn’t a huge claim to fame in 2014 in the Garden State: Atlantic City casinos have had a rough year, with four venues closing already and another likely to shut down before the end of November. And while it seemed that the online poker world had mostly been immune to those issues so far, this past weekend proved that they couldn’t entirely escape the carnage.

Ultimate Poker dealt its final hand in New Jersey on Sunday night, as the site ceased operations at 11:59 pm local time. That was part of a complete withdrawal from the New Jersey market by Ultimate Gaming, which also ended its Internet casino operations this weekend.

Move Follows “Breaches” by Trump Taj Mahal

The move came as Ultimate Gaming terminated its working agreement with Trump Taj Mahal Associates over what the company called “multiple breaches.” The Taj Mahal is currently in bankruptcy court, and its owners have said that it will likely close later this year unless operating costs can be cut significantly.

Ultimate Gaming, which is owned by Station Casinos, has been successful in creating a viable poker room in Nevada, where they opened the first ever regulated Internet poker site in the United States. However, they never found a way to duplicate that success in New Jersey.

“We wish things would have turned out differently for us,” Marc Falcone, CFO of Station Casinos, told the Associated Press. “Unfortunately, as they say in poker, we were not dealt a good hand.”

Players Funds Available for Withdrawal

Players with funds in their Ultimate Poker accounts can still log in and withdraw their funds at their convenience. Unexpired tournament tickets and “U dollars” will be converted back into cash and refunded to players. If balances have not been withdrawn by September 28, refunds will be sent to account owners at their registered addresses.

Ultimate Poker marketed itself aggressively from the launch of online gaming in New Jersey, which occurred less than a year ago. However, it never received the kind of support from the Taj Mahal that rooms like the partypoker/Borgata poker site or 888 and Caesars’ WSOP.com did from their land-based partners. Still, Ultimate Gaming Chairman Tom Breitling says the company doesn’t regret its time in the Garden State.

“We are grateful to the State of New Jersey and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement for allowing us to be one of the first companies to bring online gaming to the citizens of New Jersey and appreciate their leadership as one of the first states to allow online gaming,” Breitling said.

Ultimate Lagged Behind Competitors in New Jersey

Overall, Ultimate Poker accounted for just one percent of the online poker revenue in New Jersey in 2014 (through August), and despite strong efforts to attract more players, the situation did not appear to be improving. Revenue had declined for five consecutive months, and traffic was often non-existent on the site, particularly during off-peak hours.

The closure still comes as something of a surprise, however, as Ultimate Gaming did run a fairly successful casino site (even if it did lag behind its New Jersey competitors). However, the potential closure of the Trump Taj Mahal after it filed for bankruptcy put a dark cloud over Ultimate’s future in the state. In addition, bankruptcy filing show a debt of close to $1.5 million to Fertitta Acquisitions, a company associated with Ultimate Gaming and Station Casinos.

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