Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson might be late to the party in New Jersey, but that won't stop him from making a grand entrance. The founder of the Virgin Group will be launching his legal, real-money online gambling platform this week after teaming up with Gamesys and the Tropicana Atlantic City Casino and Resort.
Virgincasino.com was one of 15 gambling websites approved to offer online gambling in New Jersey last fall after the state passed Internet gambling legislation. While online operators like bwin.party and 888 entered the market on the Nov. 26 launch date, Virgin elected to delay its launch while competitors ironed out early issues with geolocation and payment processing.
Virgin will officially enter the New Jersey market on Friday. The site will offer more than 30 games, including blackjack, roulette, slots, baccarat, and video poker.
"We've been rehearsing this moment for several years in the UK, including dealing with players who have bet more than $4.3 billion on Gamesys games in 2012," said Lee Fenton, chief operating officer of Gamesys, according to the Associated Press.
New Jersey generated $8.4 million in online gambling revenue in its first six weeks, and more than 155,000 iGaming accounts were created in the state as of Jan. 12. The Borgata and partner bwin.party are the early leaders in the space, producing nearly half of the revenues ($3.7 million). Tropicana ranked fourth out of the six Atlantic City-based operators, generating $748,589 in the first six weeks.
The overall figures fell short of projections. Several industry analysts projected that New Jersey would take in $200 to $300 million in online gambling revenue in the first year, which means the state would need to generate $16 million to $25 million per month.
But operators will point out that there is plenty of room for growth as iGaming develops in the Garden State.
"Everybody needs to take into consideration that this industry is in its infancy," Tropicana President Tony Rodio told the AP. "There will be mobile applications, and a lot of the slot content isn't operational yet."
Branson, famous for his flashy marketing techniques under his Virgin mega-brand, will likely attempt to grab a big piece of the New Jersey iGaming market by using similar concepts. The website is already pushing a community jackpot promotion which will pay out up to $20,000 to players logged into the site whenever a jackpot is hit.
Virgin is also planning to roll out a real-money poker app through Facebook later this year which will be available for players located in New Jersey.