Even as online casino gambling continues to thrive in New Jersey, the state’s online poker industry is still struggling to establish itself.
When the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) released its December and year-end revenue reports two weeks ago, the immediate focus was on record-setting industrywide revenue. Overall revenue topped $20 million in December, grew for the third consecutive month, and added to the Garden State’s record-setting $196.7 million in iGaming revenue generated throughout 2017.
However, that success hasn’t translated to the industry’s poker sector.
Online poker revenue totaled $1.94 million during December, down from $2.10 million in December of 2016 for a 7.8 percent market contraction year-on-year. And while the poker vertical did grow slightly compared to November’s $1.81 million revenue mark, last month marked the worst December performance in the four-year history of regulated iGaming in New Jersey.
One month earlier, November of 2017 became the worst November in the industry’s history.
Year-on-year declines are nothing new for the state’s online poker market. Aside from January and February, poker revenue fell year-on-year for 10 straight months to close out 2017.
For the year, poker revenue dipped to $24.2 million, representing an 8.5 percent reduction from 2016’s mark of $26.5 million.
The only positive sign for the poker sector is that 2017 wasn’t the worst year on record, as it barely beat out 2015 ($23.8 million) with less than 2 percent growth.
The leading online poker operator in December was the Resorts Casino Atlantic City licensing group – which counts global industry leader PokerStars as its lone poker licensee – at $776,201 in monthly revenue.
PokerStars.NJ went live in March of 2016 and captured the market share lead by April. Since then, the site’s contributions have made Resorts AC the industry’s poker revenue leader for 21 months in a row. The license provider has accumulated just over $18 million in poker revenue since the launch of PokerStars.NJ.
The site’s chief competition comes from the Borgata licensing group, which is affiliated with both the BorgataPoker, PartyPoker, and PlayMGMPoker brands. In December, the Borgata group’s trio of poker platforms generated $630,823 in revenue.
The third licensing group offering online poker in New Jersey is Caesars Interactive Entertainment, with WSOP.com and 888Poker as its two brands. Together, the Caesars poker products posted $530,037 in revenue.
On the year, Resorts AC dominated the poker market with $9.78 million in annual revenue to $7.50 million for Borgata and $6.98 million for Caesars.
The listless performance for online poker in New Jersey follows the pattern established by the other two states with regulated iGaming.
In Nevada, the UltimatePoker platform was shuttered soon after launch, leaving the Silver State with just one remaining online poker room in WSOP.com.
And in Delaware – where three state-operated sites utilize the same 888Poker platform – annual revenue declined from just $376,000 in 2016 to $231,000 last year, down 38 percent.
Despite the extended slump, all three states could see online poker rebound in 2018 when their currently separated industries are merged.
Thanks to a player pool liquidity sharing agreement signed in October of last year, players on sites like WSOP.com and 888Poker which operate in New Jersey, Nevada, and/or Delaware will be able to compete against one another across state lines. Player pool sharing experiments in Europe have proven to revitalize languishing markets by increasing the availability of cash game tables and boosting tournament prize pools.
In a statement issued after signing the player sharing compact, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie praised the agreement as a necessary stimulus for regulated iGaming nationwide:
“Pooling players with Nevada and Delaware will enhance annual revenue growth, attract new consumers, and create opportunities for players and Internet gaming operators.
This agreement marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for online gaming, and we look forward to working with our partners in Nevada and Delaware in this endeavor.”