Last April, Ultimate Gaming carved its brand name into the global history books when its online poker room, Ultimate Poker, became the first regulated, real money iGaming website based in the United States. The company has maintained a fairly solid placement in Nevada ever since, but recent circumstances in New Jersey, and the subsequent dismissal of multiple company directors, is causing industry analysts to question the future of the online poker brand.
Ultimate Poker was the unrivaled top-dog in Nevada for several months before WSOP.com came along last September. It didn’t take long for the Caesars operation to overtake UP as the number one poker site in the Silver State, but Ultimate, owned by Station Casinos, has still maintained a lofty presence. At the moment, UP is attracting about 37% of the state’s online poker traffic. 61% belongs to WSOP.com, while the only other rival, South Point’s Real Gaming, is averaging less than 2%.
When New Jersey opened its virtual doors to online gambling, Ultimate Gaming shifted gears, partnering with Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal to launch an online poker and online casino client in the Garden State. Ucasino was mildly successful, but Ultimate Poker had a very hard time getting off the ground. Since spring, UP was averaging single digits in player traffic. Thus it’s not exactly certain which came first – Trump Resorts’ decision to file bankruptcy and close its Taj Mahal casino, or Ultimate’s decision to pull out of the New Jersey iGaming market.
Both Ultimate Poker and Ucasino officially ceased operations in New Jersey on September 21st. In August, its last full month of operation, Ultimate Gaming reported a total of $602,595 in generated gambling revenue; $579,496 from its Ucasino operation, and just $23,099 from the online poker division. While the casino revenue was about on par with the rest of the year’s results, online poker revenue has been slipping further with each passing month, ever since March when the company hit an all-time high of just above 6 figures ($100,289).
It’s certainly understandable why Ultimate Gaming would choose to cut its losses and retreat back to its home base in Nevada, but cessation of the New Jersey iGaming venture wasn’t the only move the company made. According to reports, Ultimate then proceeded to go on a firing spree, wherein the majority of their big-wig employees in the marketing and online poker department were dismissed. Among the extensive list were key figureheads like Scott Yeats, Director of Poker Operations, Chris Danek, Poker Product Manager, and Todd Kobrin, Chief Marketing Officer. Even longtime brand ambassador, WSOP bracelet winner Jason Somerville, who ran the popular Run It Up! Webcast series, was released from the sponsored pro team.
It is obvious that the company is making cutbacks in as many areas as possible, ostensibly to make up for the losses incurred on the east coast end of the business, but have they gone too far? Without key directors in the company, one has to wonder if the UP product in Nevada will suffer. On the surface, though, Ultimate Gaming is still putting up a grand façade.
“Ultimate Gaming will continue to focus on improving its online poker product and overall customer experience in Nevada,” said Tom Breitling, Chairman of Ultimate Gaming. “We will also continue to conduct live events at Station Casinos and Peppermill properties.” Sources also alluded to an upcoming release of UP’s 3rd software version, said to include mobile compatibility for Android and iOS devices.