The New Jersey online gambling industry was bolstered by another strong performance by its casino arm in May, with the market’s dozen or so casino sites reaping $10,546,840 in gross revenue.
Unfortunately, in what has become something of a recurrent trend, the state’s online poker operation did not fare nearly as favorably, posting its lowest tallies ($1,928,106) since November 2014, and second lowest totals since the industry went live in November 2013.
Monthly tables and total revenue can be viewed at PlayNJ.com. In addition, the official NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement report can be viewed here.
NJ online poker revenue by the numbers
A year-over-year comparison of the New Jersey online poker market reveals that revenue dipped 15.2% in May.
Despite posting markedly lower cash game averages, the partnership of the Borgata and PartyPoker maintained its market share lead by a healthy margin – $1,096,307 for Party/Borgata versus $831,799 for sole competitor WSOP/888.
In fact, the gap is growing, as annual revenue for Party/Borgata only slipped 9.1%, whereas WSOP/888 sustained a 19% loss, resulting in the network’s lowest revenue totals ($831,799) in recorded history.
There are however, a few indicators that New Jersey’s online poker landscape is poised for a rebound:
- After succumbing to its then low point in June 2014, online poker revenue rebounded nicely in July and August.
- Breaking down revenue into daily totals, online poker generated only slightly less revenue (6%) in May as compared to April.
- The usually thriving online casino industry also experienced a month-over-month loss ($10.55 mm in May vs. $10.71 mm in April), suggesting that seasonal trends are the primary culprit behind the industry’s struggles.
- A 15.2% annual drop for online poker isn’t that bad in context, considering that May was the first month in 2015 in which year-over-year totals didn’t fall by at least a 20% margin.
The final point must be taken with a grain, and arguably a pound, of salt. Notice that from April 2014 to May 2014 (see chart above), online poker revenue plunged over 13%, or more than double the percentage loss experienced this May.
While normally that would register as a positive indicator for current industry performance, in this scenario there is another variable that must be considered – that of market novelty.
Based on 2014 revenue trends, the novelty of New Jersey’s online poker arm appeared to peak in January before steadily waning throughout the next three months and trailing off completely by May. With this in mind, it can be argued that May 2015 marks the first time that meaningful year-over-year comparisons can be drawn.
If that’s the case, a 15.2% drop becomes more alarming, as the prior 20%+ dips are justified by both market novelty and an increased marketing spend by operators during the industry’s first few months.
NJ cash game performance relative to other markets
Then again, in order to fully appreciate how the industry is performing in context, we must gauge the behavior of the industry at large.
According to Poker Industry Pro via PokerScout.com, global cash game liquidity dropped a rather staggering 17.1% from May 15, 2014 to the same date in 2015. However, much of this loss can be attributed to the introduction of Lottery Sit & Gos, which have blossomed into a viable revenue alternative on sites like PokerStars.
Over an equivalent time frame daily averages in New Jersey slipped 13%, which is slightly less than the global market, but in the absence of a new, popular format.
While that statistic is telling, it’s perhaps not as meaningful as a comparison of New Jersey to other US-markets.
Cash game traffic in the Nevada regulated market actually grew by 14% from mid-May last year to this. The same can be said about illegal, US-facing sites, which saw their combined liquidity increase by 14.9% over a one-year time frame beginning last May.
Together, these statistics suggest that the New Jersey online poker segment is in need of serious reform.
Outlook for NJ online poker in June 2015
From May to June 2014, NJ online poker revenue slipped approximately 10% – or 6.9% if we break down revenue into daily averages. I don’t expect the industry to stumble by the same magnitude this year, for the following:
- Cash game averages have held relatively steady throughout May and June, probably because there isn’t much room left for them to fall.
- A portion of May’s month-over-month falloff can be attributed to the presence of a highly advertised $1,000,000 tournament series on Party/Borgata – the NJCOP II.
- There hasn’t been an influx of opportunities for New Jersey players to win their way into live WSOP events. Thus, all but the most serious players probably stayed home.
- The seasonal downtrend usually comes to an end by late June.
With these factors in mind, expect daily revenue averages to hold relatively steady in June, before increasing slightly in July.
That is, unless PokerStars NJ goes live toward the beginning of its expected Q3 2015 launch window.