One of the hottest topics in online gambling is the previously little-known Santa Ysabel tribe of California. The tribe made headlines by boasting to the world it was prepping to launch a real money online poker room in California (a state that has not legalized online poker) under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) which allows tribes to offer Class II gambling.
Poker is considered Class II gambling, but there hasn’t been any distinction made on online poker, and it raises several potential problems, as I pointed out here, and as Martin Shapiro points out in this article.
There has been a lot of speculation as to the motives of the Santa Ysabel tribe’s supposed decision to launch a real money online poker site even though California has not passed a bill legalizing online poker in the state. Some have called it a legitimate challenge to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and under the umbrella of tribal sovereignty and Class II gambling, while others (like myself) have called it posturing and a bluff to make sure a new revenue sharing agreement is included if online poker legislation is passed.
So which is it?
The PrivateTable.com marketing campaign
PrivateTable.com, the proposed online poker room of the Santa Ysabel tribe may have more bite to it than I originally thought, but I’m still not sold, as everything thus far has been “small potatoes,” including their marketing efforts.
California residents (and perhaps even outside of California) have reported seeing PrivateTable.com appear in Google ads since the site was first announced a couple weeks back.
While some see this as a sign of a potential launch, this development actually makes it more likely that PrivateTable.com will remain a play money site for the time being, since Google doesn’t accept advertisers of real money online gambling in markets that do not allow for it.
In the U.S. Google doesn’t allow online gambling ads per their policy:
“Google doesn’t allow advertising for Internet-based games where money or other items of value are paid or wagered in order to win a greater sum of money or other item of value.”
Furthermore, this isn’t necessarily what I would call a major marketing campaign, and here is why.
How Google ads work
Google ads are generally found on smaller sites (sites hosting Google ads are paid a nominal amount per clickthrough) and target customers by using their search history to display ads that should appeal to them — If you’ve been shopping online for a new computer chair you’re likely to be bombarded by adverts for computer chairs on certain sites.
Google ads are usually those little ads in the sidebars of websites or in between forum posts that are screaming “click me click me! I know you’ve been Googling couches.”
In the case of PrivateTable.com, people who have searched for online gambling information, or people who have visited poker websites will likely be targeted. It’s unclear if they are geotargeting these ads to California and surrounding areas.
How much Google ads cost
As an advertiser on Google ads you are charged by the number of clickthroughs your ad receives. Google charges advertisers based on a Cost Per Click (CPC) model with the price dependent on the category/keywords the ad is using. Some keywords can cost as much $50/click, but most are much cheaper, such as the keywords PrivateTable.com would be using.
Additionally, advertisers can set daily limits on the maximum amount they wish to spend. For example, if Google is charging PrivateTable.com $1/click the company can set a limit of $20 per day before their ad is taken out of the rotation.
Under these circumstances, even if PrivateTable.com maxed out their CPC, their ad campaign would only cost about $600 for the month.
So even though their presence in Google ads may make it seem like PrivateTable.com and the Santa Ysabel tribe are ramping up their marketing efforts (perhaps in a run-up to launch) it could just be more posturing.
That being said, PrivateTable’s Twitter account has repeatedly said that this is not a bluff.