A shortened month and above average temperatures couldn’t stop the freight train that is the New Jersey online casino industry. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about online poker.
In February, the state’s numerous online casinos combined to generate $12,755,555 in gross revenue, beating out January’s then high water mark of $12,478,841. It was the sixth consecutive month of growth for the industry’s casino arm.
Online poker, on the other hand, stumbled a bit. The industry had been trending in the right direction, boasting revenue gains in each of the previous four months and eclipsing the $2 million barrier for the first time since March 2015 in January. Last month however, revenue slipped back under $2 million to $1,994,065 — a still impressive total given the conditions.
According to a press release published by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement, the industry’s two arms combined to generate $14,749,620, an 0.8 percent month-over-month improvement over January’s figure, a 41.8 percent hike over last year and yet another industry record.
February’s decline little cause for concern
From January to February, online poker revenue declined 7.3 percent. But that figure only tells one side of the story.
Consider that last February, online poker revenue was down a full 11 percent over January. Granted, 2015 wasn’t a leap year, but even if it were, last year’s monthly decline would have still been marginally worse.
Here’s another cause for optimism: After accounting for February’s shortened length, month-on-month online poker revenue was effectively flat. This wouldn’t be a reason to celebrate normally, but because February typically marks the beginning of the seasonal downtrend, a lack of negative movement should be viewed largely as a positive.
On a final note, year-on-year revenue dipped just 2.5 percent in February — that’s the lowest rate of annual decline since November, when year-on-year totals were up 4.3%
March revenue expected to rise
Good news is on the horizon for online poker, as on March 21, PokerStars will officially make its long-awaited return to the New Jersey market. The worldwide market share leader is conducting a soft launch beginning on Wednesday, March 16.
The inclusion of PokerStars will be at the very least a short-lived boon for online poker, as not only does the site’s launch stand to generate significant media hype and be accompanied by lucrative launch offers, but it will likely evoke a response from existing operators, namely in the way of temporarily increased marketing and promotional spend.
On another positive note, March saw the running of what was a very successful and aggressive Garden State Super Series IV. The Party/Borgata hosted series spanned 62 events, 60 of which met their guarantees, and gave away well over $1 million in prize money.
That being said, cash-game liquidity in New Jersey has been creeping downward throughout the month. And considering PokerStars will only partially contribute to March revenues, it’s unlikely that online poker will smash February’s revenue tally.
But the aforementioned positives, along with the introduction of the widely popular Spin & Go format, should propel revenue to at least last March’s mark of $2.23 million.
Borgata still the champ, for now
Borgata online poker generated $1,061,706 in February, a rather substantial decline of 11 percent over last month’s figure, but only 4 percent less than last year.
In light of the Borgata’s struggles, its market share lead dropped from 55.8 percent in January to 53.2 percent last month. It might not be long before Borgata cedes its crown, as the presence of PokerStars will further tighten what is already a hotly contested race.
Furthermore, Borgata is expected to switch over to a online poker client powered by Pala Interactive sometime in the next quarter. How the platform stacks up against its current client (provided by PartyPoker), may weigh heavily on the operator’s future viability in the marketplace.