PokerStars is expected to sprout up in the Garden State in the coming “weeks, not months,” according to Morris Bailey, owner of the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, the land-based partner to the world’s largest online poker network.
It’s been over two years since PokerStars and Resorts reached an agreement and applied for an iGaming license with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), and while much speculation has been made as to the cause of the lengthy delay, it appears the state is finally prepared to reinstate the “Bad Actor” into good standing.
Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly affirmed he isn’t the one to blame for the PokerStars holdup, as he’s been accused of doing so to gain political favor from billionaire anti-iPoker proponent Sheldon Adelson.
Though PokerStars seems close to ridding its problem of tapping into the New Jersey market, another problem could be arising by way of its new beta VIP program titled “Steps.”
Step in Wrong Direction
This week PokerStars announced it was debuting a new VIP program called Steps effective immediately for players in the United Kingdom, with a worldwide rollout scheduled for January 1st, 2016.
Dylan Coady, club manager for PokerStars, said on the Two Plus Two forum that VIP Steps will replace the VIP Club method of acquiring frequent player points (FPPs), but the implemented changes are thought to be yet another cost-saving tactic on the part of PokerStars.
Under terms of the new program, FPPs will only be awarded to players when they complete a VIP level, as opposed to the current structure that releases points as they’re earned. Worse yet, if a player fails to complete a VIP level, he or she will only receive 50 percent of their points.
PokerStars provided the following example:
It’s the end of the month and a SilverStar player has earned 80 of the 100 VPPs (VIP Player Points) required to complete their current Step, which offers a reward of 150 FPPs. The prorated value of their VPPs is 80/100 x 150=120 FPPs. They will earn 50 percent of the prorated value, or 120 x 0.5 which equals 60 FPPs.
The prorated FPPs equates to a net loss of 60 points in the above example, and while that doesn’t translate to a substantial monetary loss, players are nonetheless upset.
“Looks like yet another money grab by PokerStars,” writes one poster on Two Plus Two. Another says, “There is no upside to these changes for the players” and “driving people away more when the online community is struggling doesn’t seem like a smart idea.”
“The 50 percent prorated value for an incomplete Step was not designed as a means to reduce rewards, but rather to improve player engagement with VIP Rewards and incentivize players to complete their Step,” Coady claimed.
It’s dire times for online poker in New Jersey, and while July’s revenue numbers were up 2.7 percent compared to June, it’s all-time low 30-day period, it’s still down 12.2 percent compared to last July and a staggering 24.5 percent year-to-date.
Many are hoping, if not praying, that PokerStars can help reverse those statistics.
But some pundits think PokerStars’ impact won’t be substantial considering the market is contained in New Jersey, meaning the network won’t be permitted to bring its players in from other countries.
Bailey and his Atlantic Ocean beachfront venue Resorts, along with PokerStars, are betting on the naysayers being wrong.