Ultimate Gaming Future Unclear After NJ Shutdown

Posted on: September 30, 2014, 10:01h. 

Last updated on: September 30, 2014, 10:04h.

Todd Kobrin exits Ultimate Gaming
Former CMO Todd Kobrin is one of several high-profile personnel to leave Ultimate Poker following its exit from the New Jersey online market. (Image: Ultimate Poker)

Ultimate Gaming faces an uncertain future in the wake of its withdrawal from the New Jersey market and an accompanying significantly reduced staff.  While the fact that the Internet gambling firm has reduced its staff following the loss of a major market isn’t surprising, the extent of those cuts have many speculating on the future of the brand.

While it’s likely that many individuals who worked specifically to service New Jersey customers have or will lose jobs at Ultimate Gaming, it seems as though the cuts aren’t stopping there. According to a report from Pokerfuse, most of the poker operations team has been removed at Ultimate, including big names like Chief Marketing Officer Todd Kobrin, Poker Product Manager Chris Danek, and Director of Poker Operations Scott Yeates.

The departure of Kobrin comes only four months after he took the job. Kobrin had been poached from 888, where he had worked for about nine years. Yeates is also a very public loss, as he ran the account that manned the support thread for Ultimate Poker on the twoplustwo.com forums.

Jason Somerville Exits Too

Ultimate Poker also lost a high-profile spokesperson this weekend, as professional poker player Jason Somerville announced that he was not longer associated with the site. Somerville, who is the popular creator of the “Run It Up” online poker video series, described the split as amicable, but confirmed that it was a result of the new financial reality for Ultimate Gaming after their exit from New Jersey.

The exit from New Jersey came after Ultimate’s online gambling partner, the Trump Taj Mahal, filed for bankruptcy earlier in September. That, combined with what the company called “multiple breaches” by the casino, led to Ultimate Gaming’s decision to leave New Jersey, rather than attempt to find a new partner or reach a temporary agreement with state regulators, as Betfair did.

Speculation Mounts Over Future Plans

Given that Betfair’s situation suggests that other options may have been available, there has been some speculation that Ultimate may have been at least considering leaving the New Jersey market even before the Trump bankruptcy. Ultimate Gaming was never in the best position in the state, as they received very little promotional support from their land-based partner, and the company’s software was considered to be poor compared to most of its competitors.

While those software issues are also present for Ultimate Poker in Nevada, the company has had some important advantages in that state. Most importantly, it was the first regulated online poker site in Nevada, and had a head start of several months in front of WSOP.com. While the Caesars-backed WSOP site ultimately took the top spot, Ultimate Poker has managed to hang on to a solid player base and remains in second place in the state.

With the loss of several key personnel from the company, there are now questions about where Ultimate Gaming is heading. Some speculate that it will continue to operate with a smaller staff in an attempt to survive until new opportunities open, perhaps including online gaming legislation passing in other states. Others believe the company may eventually be forced to merge with another operator or even possibly close down.