The New Jersey online poker industry needs help.
The question is: Will the upcoming launch of online poker in neighboring Pennsylvania give NJ online poker the boost it so desperately needs?
The best answer is a simple one: Not just yet.
In fact, PA online poker may even hurt the industry in NJ when it launches. That is if online poker players in PA decides to stay home and play in the new legal and regulated market there, rather than make the often short drive to the Garden State.
Hope for the future for NJ online poker
The short-term outlook is a bit on the grim side. However, there is most assuredly hope for the future.
Right now, NJ online poker is an industry struggling to survive. Revenue numbers have never been great by any stretch of the imagination. However, in September 2018, the numbers hit the lowest levels seen since launch.
In fact, in September 2018, NJ online poker revenues dropped 8.4 percent from August 2018 to a paltry $1.6 million. The numbers were also down 15.4 percent from September 2017. It marked the worst monthly revenue numbers since NJ online poker launched almost five years ago in November 2013.
Making things seem even worse was the dip came despite a pair of big tournament events. The first-ever online World Series of Poker Circuit series and PokerStars NJ Championship of Online Poker ran throughout the month.
Overall, NJ gambling websites‘ revenues continue growing and wowing the entire casino industry. With $25.8 million in revenue posted in September 2018, NJ online gambling revenue numbers came close to a record high.
However, NJ online poker, which had been hovering around 10 percent, now makes up less than seven percent of total NJ online gambling revenue.
The multistate agreement for NJ online poker industry
When New Jersey signed on to the multistate agreement allowing NJ sites to share online poker player pools with others in Nevada and Delaware, the industry expected that things would change dramatically. They have not.
The WSOP NJ / 888 Poker network is the only one with sites in all three states. Therefore, it remains the only organization enjoying any of its benefits. In fact, the Caesars Interactive Entertainment network posted $671,315 in revenue in September 2018, helping it move into the top spot in the state.
However, even its revenue numbers were down close to five percent from August 2018. Hosting the first-ever WSOP online circuit series in September didn’t seem to help as much as some thought it might.
The rest of the NJ online poker industry posted month-over-month decreases as well.
Running the PokerStars NJ Championship of Online Poker didn’t help PokerStars NJ in September 2018 either. In fact, its revenues dropped 15 percent from August.
Can Pennsylvania save the day?
But again, the question is: Can PA online poker somehow come in and save the day?
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has approved the first group of online poker license applications. It appears the first legal and regulated PA online poker sites will go live by late 2018 or early 2019.
With a population of almost 13 million people, PA has the potential to double the number of people playing legal and regulated online poker in this country. However, they won’t be playing together from the jump.
PA online poker is launching in a fenced-in market. That means PA online poker players will only be playing against each other at first.
Yes, there is language in the law allowing PA to sign interstate compacts like the one involving New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. However, the state has made it clear it wants to launch PA online poker with a fence around it first to see what it is they’ve got.
For now, that means NJ online poker won’t be getting the help it needs from its neighbor.
Give online poker a year
Most pundits put the timeline at about one year before PA signs on to any interstate compacts. If it does ultimately join forces with NJ, Nevada, and Delaware after that time, it should be a boost to online poker in all four states.
The WSOP/888 Poker network won’t be the only one operating in all four states. This will allow an operation like PokerStars, for example, to get in on the benefits of multistate online poker as well.
Adding the fourth state to increase the size of the entire existing market will undoubtedly create a big jump in tournament prize pools and cash game player pool numbers. This, in turn, will attract even more players to online poker in all four states. It should be the kind of help NJ online poker needs.
NJ online poker revenue numbers may never wow anyone. However, sharing player pools with PA might give it a much-needed boost. The NJ online poker industry will just have to wait and see.