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Since launching nearly two months ago, Party Poker has positioned itself at the forefront of the flourishing New Jersey iGaming market.
Preliminary data released by the DGE last week indicates that Party, together with its brick and mortar partner the Borgata, account for approximately 45 percent of the total NJ iGaming share – an impressive feat considering that Caesars operates more gaming sites.
Yet, I’d argue that Party may be in danger of losing its stranglehold on the market, particularly in the online poker arena. Software maladies, poor customer service and an unappealing tournament schedule have some players up in arms.
That’s not to say Party isn’t doing marvels for the iGaming industry – one needn’t look further than its partnership with the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers to see that.
It’s just that they may want to focus a bit more on the here and now.
Based on data collected by PokerScout.com, cash-game traffic on Party is at a four-week low.
And while the drop-off has been by no means significant, if the current trend continues Party could find itself in a three-way battle royale with WSOP.com and the suddenly emergent 888poker.
Current cash-game numbers (24-hour peaks, and 7-day averages) as follows:
Average cash-player volume over the past 7 days has slightly increased (536 to 544), which indicates that Party, and to a lesser extent Ultimate, are either losing players to WSOP and 888 or Caesars’ online poker brands are attracting new ones via their stellar January promotions.
But PokerScout‘s numbers only paint a partial picture of NJ’s online poker landscape.
Digging a little bit deeper, tournament turnout numbers have turned decidedly in WSOP’s favor.
Case in point: a few weeks ago, Party’s 50k guarantee missed its guarantee by a scant ~$600. This week, that number swelled to $2,455, as only 257 runners signed up.
On the flip side, WSOP’s Sunday major – the $25,000 Weekly Sunday – exceeded its guarantee by $4,400. To my knowledge it was the single largest overlay the site has enjoyed to date.
Granted, the large turnout for this week’s Weekly Sunday could have been an anomaly, as WSOP was also hosting a $250,000 First Time Depositors freeroll.
The inaugural event of the WSOP Online Championships, the freeroll drew 3,661 runners – nearly 1,500 more than Party’s final New Jersey’s Next Poker Millionaire freeroll.
No big surprise there, considering the $250,000k freeroll boasted a top prize that dwarfed those of the Sunday majors.
888poker’s major also failed to hit the mark, coming up nearly $1,900 short of its 10k guarantee. This is to be somewhat expected, as right now the site is focusing primarily on attracting cash-game traffic – more on that later.
And Ultimate Poker’s major once again proved to be the “ultimate” loser, once again leaving over $10k in free prize money on the table. Still, it’s better than the $13k+ in free money it handed out three weeks ago.
Clearly, WSOP.com was this week’s big winner, with 888 showing pronounced signs of improvement. But why the sudden change?
I concocted a few theories of my own as to why Party has been losing traction, and sure enough many of them were confirmed by posters on Two Plus Two’s dedicated nj.partypoker.com forum.
They are, in no particular order:
On a side note, the recent counterfeit chip scandal at the Borgata’s Winter Open Event #1 may have long-lasting ramifications on the company’s brand.
Considering that only 27 players were left when play was stopped, the casino could find itself in quite the quandary, especially if it fails to identify the culprit(s).
Already, online qualifier entries to Borgata tournament events have dropped. Whether or not Borgata’s brick and mortar troubles will have a long-term effect on its online poker community is yet to be determined.
Although, I’m guessing that it won’t.
WSOP.com and 888 both have a presence in Nevada, which could serve them well if the Silver State forms an interstate compact with New Jersey. The latter is also the sole iGaming operator in Delaware.
However, through its alignment with the Sixers, Party has already established its brand in Pennsylvania.
Should Pennsylvania pass an iGaming bill in the next year, exactly no one would be surprised if Party’s parent company, bwin.party, teamed up with a Keystone State casino. And Pennsylvania stands to support a significantly larger iGaming populace than Nevada and Delaware combined.
As for now, should WSOP.com and 888poker continue to throw free money around, it’s a near certainty that they will continue to gain ground on NJ’s market leader.
But just how much are they willing to give away to become number one? And even if they did, could they remain number one in NJ and the US if Pennsylvania gets involved?
So to answer the question posed in this week’s headline, my answer to you is “Maybe, but don’t count on it.”