Historically, September has not been a good month for the NJ online poker industry, and last month proved no exception. After a rebound in August, the market’s three networks (PokerStars, WSOP / 888, and Borgata / PartyPoker) only managed to gross $2,016,919, down 7.2 percent month-on-month.
PokerStars absorbed by far the biggest hit, with monthly revenue dropping 14 percent to $744,045. It was the operator’s worst month since entering the market in late March.
NJ online casino, on the other hand, was back to its winning ways. After a rare drop-off in August, revenue was up 2.3 percent to $14,214,980. For the first three-quarters of 2016, the state’s online casino arm has generated $124.5 million, just $500,000 less than it grossed all of last year.
Total industry revenue came in at $16,231,889 (+1.0 percent), its second lowest tally since April, but just $1.1 million less than the high-water mark set in July.
NJ online poker becomes a three horse race
The fight for online poker supremacy in New Jersey tightened up last month, with Borgata/Party making up significant ground on both PokerStars and WSOP/888.
Borgata/Party grossed $631,476, up 3.7 percent over the month prior. It was the network’s biggest month since May, but still miles off the $1 million-plus it was pulling before PokerStars entered the picture.
Despite offering a $1,000 reload bonus, WSOP/888 had a rather disappointing September, with month-on-month revenue falling 8.3 percent to $641,398. The network now only holds the slimmest of leads over Borgata/Party; a lead which could evaporate entirely, depending on if this month’s GSSS V performs on par with previous iterations of Borgata/Party’s top-shelf tournament series.
At present, no single network controls more than 37 percent of the market, nor less than 31 percent. That’s a far cry from the situation in April, when PokerStars looked well on its way to dominating the industry.
Decline is little cause for concern
As poor as September’s numbers look on paper, NJ online poker is faring reasonably well:
- The 7.2 percent month-on-month falloff is smaller than the declines the market experienced in September 2014 and 2015.
- Year-on-year revenue was up more this September (13.9 percent) than in any other month since May — when the newness of PokerStars was still artificially elevating revenue.
- September has one less day than August. Breaking revenue down on a day-by-day basis reveals a monthly decline of just 4.1 percent. That figure is certainly within the sphere of normal fluctuations.
Admittedly, it does strike as odd that the New Jersey market struggles in September, as globally, September tends to mark the beginning of online poker’s seasonal uptick.
A few possible justifications exist, however:
- September is a big month for live poker on the east coast, highlighted by the Borgata Poker Open.
- It’s also one of the most pleasant months, in terms of weather.
- PokerStars hosts the WCOOP in September. It’s at least presumable that some NJ poker players travel to participate.
- Generally speaking, NJ online poker operators support rather pedestrian promotional schedules in September, opting to hold back for their big tournament series in October.
October could be a banner month, at least on paper
Last October, monthly tallies for NJ online poker surged 8.0 percent, thanks primarily to the running of the widely successful GSSS III on Borgata/Party. Expect an even stronger rebound this October, as operators have added a combined $2.4 million to their tournament schedules.
- Borgata/Party: The GSSS V is already underway. The series guarantees over $1.1 million spread across 75 events, and will culminate in a $320 buy-in, $175,000 guaranteed Main Event on October 23.
- PokerStars NJ: PokerStars has one-upped its rival, with a series (NJCOOP) that will guarantee $1.2 million over just 43 events. The NJCOOP will kick off on October 15 and run through October 31. It will be complemented by the live PokerStars Festival at Resorts AC (October 29 – November 6).
- WSOP NJ: The operator is in the midst of hosting a smallish series, entitled Fall Poker Festival, that will guarantee $65,000 over eight events. It runs from October 9 – 16.
Alongside these tournament series are an influx of new and attractive promotions, the most noteworthy being a 100 percent match up to $500 reload bonus on PokerStars.
It’s worth noting that that gross revenue trends are not a perfect indicator of industry health. Consider what happens if the aforementioned tournament series’ all produce mass overlays. In this scenario, gross revenue will still almost certainly be up, yet profit margins would likely slip.
Time will tell if this unprecedented level of aggression on the part of NJ online poker operators will pay off.
Golden Nugget revenue boosted by SugarHouse launch
Turning for a moment to online casino, the Golden Nugget had yet another mammoth month, generating $3,659,348. That represents month-on-month growth of 5.5 percent, and marks just the second time Golden Nugget revenue has eclipsed $3.6 million.
The Golden Nugget was undoubtedly helped along by the addition of SugarHouse Casino, which launched during the second week of September. Being the only operator to support Live Dealer games probably didn’t hurt either — although thus far, the impact on revenue appears to be tiny.
As of September, the Golden Nugget AC (comprised of Golden Nugget Casino, Betfair Casino and SugarHouse Casino), accounted for 25.1 percent of total online casino revenue. It’s certainly plausible that this figure will swell even higher in October, as it will be SugarHouse’s first full month in the industry.
Other online casino revenues as follows:
Full revenue reports for September can be found here.