The NJ Online Poker Industry Slips On The Ice, But Doesn’t Break Its Neck, In November

December 16, 2016
The NJ Online Poker Industry Slips On The Ice, But Doesn’t Break Its Neck, In November

Following a banner month in October, the NJ online poker industry fell swiftly back to earth.

The market’s three operators generated just $2,083,642 in gross gaming revenue for November, representing a monthly downturn of 12.8 percent. There was still year-on-year growth of 6.4 percent, but that figure is the lowest it’s been since PokerStars entered the equation in March.

These unflattering statistics were mostly expected, as in October, revenue was heavily influenced by the running of the New Jersey Championship of Online Poker on PokerStars, and the Garden State Super Series V on Borgata PartyPoker NJ.

PokerStars led industry revenue for an eighth consecutive month, but its margins were down significantly — 18.2 percent to $829,309. Despite the drop, the operator maintained a substantial lead over second place WSOP NJ /888 Poker NJ ($632,459).

On the plus side, the state’s online casino arm more than made up for poker’s struggles. NJ online casinos grossed $15,085,936, marking their second best month in the industry’s three-year history.

It could have been worse

In visual form, last month’s performance stacks up quite poorly:

But given the particular circumstances, a 13-percent drop-off is hardly cause to sound the alarm.

  • November is one day shorter than October, and this year, had one less weekend.
  • The big numbers posted in October by Borgata/Party were somewhat misleading, as the GSSS V was decimated by mass overlays and tournament cancellations. It’s safe to assume that the network took a sizable financial hit on the series.
  • In October, PokerStars spent a great amount of marketing energy hyping its live PokerStars Festival event at Resorts, which may have marginally influenced online traffic.
  • The seasonal uptick doesn’t really pick up steam in NJ until around January. Last November, industry revenue only rose 2.3 percent. The year prior, revenue was down 4.6 percent.

The dip is at least mildly concerning, however, especially considering how active NJ online poker operators were in November:

  • WSOP NJ offered returning players two reload bonus opportunities. At $1,123, its Anniversary Celebration promo gifted players the biggest match bonus in site history.
  • PokerStars hosted its popular CardHunt promotion.
  • Borgata/Party rolled out its own promos, which is something of a rarity these days.

Yet, whether due to online poker fatigue or otherwise, players just didn’t appear that interested in grinding it out — or at least not for any extended period of time.

  • According to Poker Industry Pro via PokerScout, liquidity on PokerStars crept up 18.3 percent during the first week of CardHunt, only to gradually taper off throughout the following three.
  • WSOP/888 traffic too, experienced a sudden uptick when players first became eligible for a reload, yet liquidity reverted to normal levels just as quickly.
  • Borgata/Party liquidity remained flat.
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What does December hold?

Surprisingly, the inaugural roll-out of PokerStars’ Christmas Festival in NJ has had a negligible impact on cash game and tournament traffic — at least so far. This is somewhat unsettling.

Now, it could just be players are generating loyalty (VPP) points for their challenges via untracked Spin & Go’s. But there’s certainly no guarantee.

We’ll have a better sense of what’s really going on next week, when PokerStars goes live with the Milestone Hands segment (December 19 – 28) of the Festival. Milestone prizes can only be won while seated at the cash game tables.

The news hasn’t been so favorable on other sites either. Liquidity on WSOP/888 has been mostly flat since December 1, and on Borgata/Party, it’s been completely stagnant.

Last year, NJ online poker was up just 1.4 percent in December, before climbing 8.4 percent in January. The way its shaping up, there’s a solid chance that trend will hold.

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