In what has becoming something of a trend, the New Jersey online poker market recorded modest monthly growth.
According to financials reported by the Division of Gaming Enforcement, the industry generated $1,984,137 in December, 1.4% more than in the month prior. December marked the fourth consecutive month in which the market made some form of headway.
Unfortunately, that was about the only piece of good news for the state’s two online poker operators – Party/Borgata and 888/WSOP — as both daily revenue averages and year-over-year revenue were slightly down.
The performance of online poker stands in stark contrast to that of the online casino front, where the news was entirely favorable. Fueled by the rapid growth of the Resorts brand, an increased presence on television and a slew of lucrative holiday promotions, casino experienced its best month ever, generating north of $12 million ($12,060,163 to be exact) for the first time in its two-plus year history.
Together with online poker, the industry posted a total of $14,044,300, beating out last month’s then record by just under $800k, and achieving year-on-year revenue growth of 30.8%.
December online poker growth falls short of expectations
Given that December is typically a rebound month for online poker, the financials posted for December come off as something of a disappointment.
A breakdown of daily revenue reveals that online poker averaged 1.9% less revenue per day last month as compared to November. By comparison, last December both daily averages and month-on-month tallies were up significantly (+9.7% in the case of month-on-month growth).
What’s worse is that year-over-year revenue slipped 3.6% in December after growing by 4.3% in November.
There are a couple of possible justifications as to why the online poker arm of the industry suddenly struggled last month. Most notably, this December was one of the warmest in recorded history, with records broken on multiple days. Typically, warmer weather correlates to decreased online poker activity.
Secondly, it’s well documented that Christmas and New Year’s Eve are among the slowest days for online gaming.
These justifications are weakened by the fact that casino had its best month ever, although it could have just been that the strong marketing and promotional push by online casino operators worked well enough to more than offset the forces working against them.
Borgata retains market share crown
The Borgata’s lead over 888/WSOP shrank last month, albeit only slightly.
New Jersey perennial market share king generated $1,109,798 in December, up 0.7% over November. Year-over-year revenue was flat.
888/WSOP exhibited modest gains, with monthly revenue climbing 2.3% to $874,339. However, year-on-year revenue was down drastically, plummeting a full 8%.
Borgata’s share of the market currently resides at an even 56%, down from 56.3% last month. Interestingly, 888/WSOP only gained very little ground despite boasting by far the stronger promotional schedule.
Turning to cash game liquidity, according to Poker Industry Pro via PokerScout, Borgata averaged 136 cash game players for December as opposed to 888/WSOP’s 183, proving once again that cash game traffic isn’t the sole determiner of revenue — not by a long shot.
Since the New Year began, 7-day averages on 888/WSOP have climbed all the way to 200, while traffic on Party/Borgata has remained relatively static.
First year-over-year numbers are in
We now have a clear picture of how the industry performed in its second full year relative to its first.
Sadly, the numbers reveal an industry on the decline, as revenue fell 18% in 2015. That being said, a straight revenue comparison doesn’t exactly tell the true story, as market novelty artificially inflated revenue during the first half of 2014.
A more accurate comparison point is to examine H2 2014 vs. H2 2015. From that angle, the drop-off wasn’t nearly as significant, with revenue falling just 8%.
January is typically the strongest month for online poker throughout the world, and certainly in New Jersey.
Last January, the New Jersey market experienced 12% monthly growth in registering its highest monthly revenue total for the year.
I expect a similar uptick this year, and possibly even greater, as the weather has been more in line with seasonal averages.
Furthermore, the Winter Poker Classic II MTT series on WSOP.com appears to be causing something of a spillover effect on to the cash game tables. This should serve to augment the final numbers.