When it comes to online gambling in Nevada, it’s going to be hard for any one casino or brand to overtake Caesars’ World Series of Poker (WSOP.com) site. So to go up against such a giant in the poker world, one competitor is trying to bring in as many allies as it possibly can.
That appears to be the strategy of Ultimate Gaming, the company that operates Ultimate Poker. The firm has entered into a marketing partnership with the El Cortez, allowing players to deposit and cash out at the iconic old downtown Las Vegas casino.
“We’re excited to join in this new venture and bring even more gaming options to guests of the property,” El Cortez Executive Vice President Alexandra Epstein said in a statement. “By combining the online accessibility of Ultimate Poker with the classic Vegas feel of the El Cortez we’re giving new and existing players a different way to experience the game of poker.”
The agreement is the latest in a string of such partnerships that seem to be forming a growth strategy for Ultimate Poker. In recent weeks, several other properties have also joined the Ultimate Poker network, including Reno’s Peppermill Resorts. Including Station Casinos, which is the original partner of Ultimate, there are now more than 20 casinos throughout Nevada at which players can take money in and out of their Ultimate Poker accounts.
The move comes as Ultimate Poker tries to keep up in the race for players in the rather limited Nevada market. The market leader is clearly the WSOP-branded site, which overtook Ultimate despite launching many months later. That lead was only extended thanks to the recent World Series of Poker, during which the Caesars-backed site was heavily promoted.
According to PokerScout.com, the Nevada WSOP poker site averages about 160 players at any given time, raising to nearly 300 cash game players during peak hours. In comparison, Ultimate Poker’s site averages around 55 real money cash game players, with peak hours seeing up to 130 players on the site. A third site, operated by South Point Casino and Real Gaming, has been a virtual cyber ghost town.
At the moment, those numbers would suggest that Ultimate Poker can at least survive, even if Caesars has the upper hand. But many reports are suggesting that more companies are looking to enter the already saturated market in the months and years to come, including heavyweights like bwin.party. If those sites cannot attract new players, they may siphon some off from existing sites, which could be especially damaging for Ultimate.
However, there’s also some good news for Ultimate Poker and its competitors. Online poker revenues were up nearly nine percent in Nevada during May, and while some of that may have been due to an influx of players for the World Series of Poker, that effect shouldn’t die down right away: the increased traffic may have encouraged more locals to play as well, and the sites will hope that those players can be retained even now that the WSOP has ended. In total, casinos made $862,000 in online poker revenue during May.