In April of last year, Ultimate Gaming made history by establishing the very first real money online poker site regulated in the US, Ultimate Poker. Success seemed imminent with the launch in Nevada, and the company did not hesitate to move forward with a parallel operation in New Jersey the following November. Unfortunately, reality did not mimic the brand’s strategic business model, forcing Ultimate Poker to exit New Jersey two months ago, followed by the unexpected closure of Ultimate Poker Nevada last Friday.
On November 14, Tom Breitling, Chairman of Ultimate Gaming, issued a forlorn statement announcing the impending cessation of operations at Nevada’s once-popular UP poker site. Breitling said that revenue had fallen far short of the company’s expectations, blaming the results on the fact that only three US states decided to go ahead with a regulated online poker market, all of which are presently restricted to ring-fenced markets.
Players in Nevada, for instance, are only permitted to play online poker with other players physically located in Nevada, while New Jersey players can only compete with other players in New Jersey. The same goes for online poker in Delaware. “These factors have combined to make the path to profitability very difficult and uncertain,” said Breitling. “Consequently, we have decided to cease operations.”
David Schwartz is the Director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Schwartz agreed with Breitling’s statement, saying that no one expected the US regulated online poker market to be restricted to just three states this late in the game. The director was surprised, however, to find Station Casinos LLC, owner of Ultimate Gaming, folding its cards after investing so much in the Ultimate Poker endeavor.
Swchartz also pointed the finger at offshore poker sites that continue to accept American players. Regulated online poker rooms in the US are bound by restrictive legal clauses, while these unregulated sites are not. And because so many American poker players are choosing to participate at offshore websites, where the player pools are considerably larger, operators in the US who are following the rules are paying the price.
On the brighter side, Schwartz does believe that “the future has got to be a bigger market than Nevada. In the big picture, Americans have shown they like playing poker online.” In essence, when more states realize they can better protect their citizens by regulating online poker, as opposed to ignoring or prohibiting the activity and forcing players to seek unregulated options outside the US, the industry will finally begin to flourish in America.
While the Ultimate Poker website appears unchanged at first glance, continuing to offer the same ‘Important Notice for New Jersey Players’ that appeared in September, clicking on the Support link reveals the Ultimate Poker’s intention to close as of today, November 17th. You can read the full text of the message below.
11/14: Notice to Players
We regret to inform you that Ultimate Poker will cease online poker operations in Nevada effective Monday November 17 at 12PM (Noon) PST upon complying with all necessary gaming regulatory requirements.
We are no longer accepting new deposits or registrations.
We will convert all “U-dollars” and tournament tickets to US dollars in your player account beginning Tuesday November 18, and will notify you when this is completed.
You can withdraw any balances you may have on your account by following the normal withdrawal procedures. You can also wait to receive a check from us of your final balance.
We will begin refunding any remaining player account balances by check to your registered address from the week commencing 24 November. Please allow two weeks for receipt of checks by mail.
We will update the website with new information as it becomes available. If you have any further inquiries please contact Player Care.
We thank you for your support and are very sorry that we are not able to continue to serve you in Nevada.
The Ultimate Poker Team.