The worst case scenario unfolded in New Jersey last week as Ultimate Gaming announced it would be exiting the state’s online gaming market in the wake of its partner, Trump Taj Mahal’s, financial struggles.
Ultimate Gaming’s exit is quite disappointing, but there may also be a silver lining, as the exit was handled near-flawlessly, proving once again that regulation works.
Ultimate Gaming’s exit
As reported on Friday, Ultimate Gaming announced it would be ending its partnership agreement with Trump Taj Mahal due to “multiple breaches of contract” by the casino. Trump Taj Mahal’s parent company is currently in bankruptcy court and the future of Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City is uncertain.
Given the spate of closing this year (Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel, and Trump Plaza) Ultimate Gaming was smart to take these rumblings of a Trump Taj Mahal closure seriously. Furthermore, the breaches of contract were not minor. The Trump Taj Mahal hasn’t paid Ultimate Gaming its disbursements in months, reportedly owing the company $1.5 million.
Looking on the bright side
The exit of Ultimate Gaming (and likely Betfair in the near future) is certainly not what advocates of online gaming wanted to see, but how these exits are handled is further proof that regulation works. While it’s a point you never hope to prove, Ultimate’s exit furthers the case for regulated online poker/gaming being a strong consumer protection.
As soon as Ultimate Gaming made the announcement players were directed to where they could find clearly explained information to request their account balances (you have until September 28th to do so), and were later made aware that their U$ and tournament tickets would be converted to cash -something very few people expected based on the track records of unregulated sites that have closed.
Ultimate Gaming also communicated that all unclaimed balances (anyone who failed to withdraw by September 28) would be sent to the address the account registered with, so there would be no discrepancies between the amount of money in player accounts and the amount of money paid out.
The company’s handling of a terrible situation in NJ should be a wakeup call for all poker players to spurn unregulated rooms even if the games are arguably better. Regulated sites may not be perfect, but there is no comparison when it comes to consumer protections and peace of mind.
If this was an unregulated room that was closing down, the forums would be flooded with questions from nervous customers wondering if they will ever see their money again; the site’s customer support staff would be swamped and likely providing vague, cryptic answers to inquiries; and there would be no specific timeline for anything.
And that would be the best case scenario, as recent Everleaf poker players can attest to.
It’s disheartening that Ultimate Gaming is leaving New Jersey after less than a year, but at the same time the manner of their exit is reassuring that the arguments for regulation are legitimate.
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