NJ Considering Allowing Gambling Operators to Fund Celebrity Players

The New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement has released a series of proposed amendments to gaming regulations, one of which would allow online casinos to sponsor celebrities and pro players.

Currently sponsored poker pros and celebrities cannot be paid or use house funds to play on New Jersey poker sites. If the proposal passes, licensed internet casinos would be able to both pay celebrities and fund sponsored players’ accounts either partially or entirely. The amendment would also permit arrangements where sponsored players could keep their winnings or where the casinos have the option to report player winnings as casino revenue.

David Rebuck, Director of the New Jersey DGE, sees the amendment as a way for online casinos to gain new players and earn additional revenue.

Sponsored players have long been part of poker site marketing

Internationally, sponsored players have been around for years. When online poker company Full Tilt was growing exponentially, the company’s marketing was largely focused on a top poker pro sponsors. PokerStars did the same, but unlike Full Tilt still maintains a sizable list of top pros and celebrities today.

In 2014 Full Tilt dropped its last team of sponsored players known as The Professionals. The Professionals were a two-player team made up of poker pros Gus Hansen and Viktor Blom. The reason for the player drop was a shift in marketing strategy away from pro player focus and towards experiences for the player pool as a whole.

PokerStars, on the other hand, also recognized the decreasing value of sponsoring tons of pro players, but has chosen to expand into far more mainstream celebrity endorsements.

PokerStars divides its sponsored players into three categories: Pro, SportStars, and Friends of PokerStars. Some big names in the pro category include Daniel Negreanu, Liv Boree, and ElkY Grospellier. Team SportStars includes tennis champion Rafael Nadal, Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, and cross-country skiing gold medal winner Marcus Hellner.

Will the New Jersey sites even bother?

Many New Jersey gaming license holders feel the state may be too small to take advantage of sponsored players. Caesars Interactive says it won’t be participating in sponsored players – at least until other states legalize internet gambling and a larger player pool exists.

Despite the company’s skepticism, Caesars Interactive spokesman Seth Palansky agreed with the DGE’s proposal in an interview with CentreDaily.com:

“We do commend the efforts of the state to add opportunities to better engage consumers in internet gaming.”

Other New Jersey casinos like The Borgata, which already utilizes well-known poker players, said it wouldn’t be opposed to sponsoring players but won’t be using Hollywood celebrities anytime soon.

What else was proposed?

Aside from the proposal allowing sponsorship deals, the series of proposed amendments also includes a change to social gaming regulations.

The proposal would allow registered players of New Jersey online casinos to pay for features on both social network games and mobile apps. The New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement will require an obvious notice on the initial screen of any social game stating that these games are in no way regulated by the Division.

The third and final proposal in the series would remove restrictions on where online casinos are allowed to host servers. Currently casino servers are required to be located on the license holders property and the servers must be located within the limits of Atlantic City. The amendment would allow casinos to have backup servers hosted off site as long the servers are well protected and within the state of New Jersey.

About the Author

Rudee Rossignol

Las Vegas-based Rudee writes about a variety of topics, all surrounding regulated U.S. online gambling. A longtime poker player, she offers an on-the-ground take on Internet gaming matters.