In my previous post, I wrote about why I believe online poker in New Jersey has not yet taken off or attracted the hoped-for numbers of players. My main observation about the issue, from having spent the past month in New Jersey and surrounding states, was fairly straightforward: I traversed the region far and wide and saw barely any (offline) advertising for online poker or casino play. You know the old saying about a tree falling in a forest? Well the plain and simple fact of the matter is that if people aren’t aware of a product, no matter how exciting that product might be they aren’t going to buy it. In the case of legal online gambling in New Jersey then, I believe there needs to be a much more concerted push in the realm of offline advertising just to get the word out within the state that online gambling – poker in particular – is available. Moving in that direction would, in my humble opinion, be a far better idea than “expressing absolute shock at the slowness of the market” and attempting to shift marketing focus to slots.
To note, while the online advertising being done to promote online poker in New Jersey might be doing its part, those ads seem to be “preaching to the choir” as they seem to be appearing on websites (or sections of websites, www.nj.com for example) that are at least in some way connected to gambling. After all, how hard is it to get people to play Jacks or Better from their mobile when they’re already interested in many poker-related topics? The people who need to be targeted in order to reverse the fortunes of online gaming in New Jersey are the recreational players, the “general public” if you will. To reach those eyeballs, offline advertising must be present in places “where people are” and offer them a catchy hook to get them to start playing online.
New Jersey’s Transportation Infrastructure – Ripe for the Sponsoring
In my previous blog post, I did mention that I saw billboards advertising online poker and casino gaming in the vicinity of Atlantic City. That’s a good thing! But New Jersey is a decent-sized state and the fundamental idea underlying online gambling is that it can be done from anywhere (where legal) – not just in a specific land-based casino location. I drove the length and breadth of the Garden State over the course of a month. Where are all the billboards? Save for the odd one or two promoting Tropicana’s online gaming offerings (in seemingly random locations), I saw absolutely nothing along New Jersey’s highways and byways trying to convince me to play poker online.
Millions of people cross into New Jersey each day from New York and Pennsylvania, often via bridges, often on the way home from work. Why are there no billboards or signs greeting them upon their entry to New Jersey saying “Welcome (back) to legal online gambling”. You know all those “adopt-a-highway” signs you see? Why aren’t the names of New Jersey’s legal online poker operators splashed across each one? The NJ Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway – main arteries of New Jersey where hundreds of thousands of cars drive by each day – are practically void of online poker advertisements. Why stop at cars? Buses, trains, and other modes of public transportation could also feature ads. Everything else gets advertised there, so why not online poker and online casino gambling?
Rest stops – dozens of them litter the roadways all across New Jersey. Why didn’t I see a single one featuring ads for online poker? It’s legal EVERYWHERE in the state, so why hasn’t one of the operators gotten a billboard up with a message of “Next Exit – online poker”, with a picture of people sitting and playing on their cell phones or laptops? Each of those rest stops comes fully equipped with those little stands featuring brochures advertising local attractions. Why no printed brochures with bonus codes for new players and depositors to legal online poker sites?
Pharmacies, convenience stores, gas stations… I think you get the idea by now. It’s one thing (and an amazing thing indeed!) for online gambling operators to strike deals with the area’s top professional sports teams, but it’s entirely another to “go grassroots” and truly reach out to the people who you want playing poker and casino games online via advertising to them in locations they frequent on at least a semi-regular basis.
Lastly, the types of offline advertising I described above obviously cost a pretty penny, no doubt. But the legal online poker and gaming operators in New Jersey can’t possibly expect players to fill their coffers if those players don’t get targeted in the first place. This type of offline advertising is a long-term investment. There’s a reason Fortune 500 companies place huge ads in Times Square – you’ve got to have a presence in the places it counts most; if you do, it works. For people in New Jersey, “the place” is everywhere within state borders. It’s time for the online poker operators to truly make their presence felt – and not just in a virtual sense, via online advertising, anymore.