Why is NJ Online Poker Cash Game Traffic Down?

NJ Online Poker Traffic Ain’t What It Used To Be, Dips To Historic Low Point

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It has not been the best of times for the NJ online poker industry.

This week, the market’s collective cash-game traffic sputtered to its lowest point since tracking began in late 2013.

Down, down she goes

Cash-game liquidity may not be the sole, or even primary, indicator of an online poker market’s health, but a significant drop in traffic is still cause for concern.

And that’s exactly what happened in New Jersey.

Currently, seven-day average traffic in New Jersey is hovering right around 240 players and trending slightly downward. This, per tracking data provided by Poker Industry Pro via PokerScout. This represents:

  • A 23 percent decline over the past 90 days
  • A 17 percent drop in the past 12 months
  • A 28 percent downturn over the past three years

In just the past 30 days, traffic is down a rather alarming 14.9 percent.

The three year statistic is particularly concerning, as back in 2014, PokerStars wasn’t part of the market. This means that the 28 percent decline during that time frame comes in spite of the addition of the world’s most recognizable and trusted online poker brand.

Summertime blues for NJ online poker, or something else?

Admittedly, the fact that NJ online poker is hitting a low during the annual seasonal downtrend softens the blow, but only modestly.

Truth is, global liquidity has only dipped 8.3 percent in the past 90 days; a full 15 percent less than the decline experienced in the New Jersey market. Traffic in the offshore US market has declined only marginally since April.

So there appears to be more to this story. With that we take a deeper dive, into the performance of individual operators:

  • PokerStars has suffered some substantial losses, with cash-game liquidity down 21.3 percent in the past 90 days. It remains the market share leader with 40.3 percent of the traffic.
  • PartyPoker NJ Borgata has seen its industry low traffic dip only modestly — 9.9 percent in three months.
  • It’s WSOP NJ 888 Poker that bore the brunt of the blow. Cash game averages are down a starling 35 percent since the end of March, and showing little sign of life. The network now owns just 31.9 percent of the market, down from nearly 38 percent.
  • Newcomer Pala Poker hasn’t exactly made waves, not that it was expected to. Seven-day cash game averages are currently two players, although in fairness, the site is in beta and hasn’t been open 24/7.

The real standout here is WSOP/888. The decline appears to be at least in part, a result of a buggy client update that resulted in a high prevalence of crashes and login difficulties.

Posts on the 2+2 forums also suggest that the update pulled the plug on well-liked quality of life features. No real justification was given for their removal.

From this it becomes clear that the summer swoon is only partially responsible for what’s happening in New Jersey.

[geoip2 region=NJarea][i15-table tableid=29874][/geoip2]

Reason for optimism in NJ?

Given the sharp decline in cash-game liquidity, one might think that industry revenue will also take a tumble.

So far, it’s unclear if that will be the case. Yes, year-on-year revenue was down 17.5 percent in May. But that’s somewhat of an unfair comparison, as last May, PokerStars NJ was still something of a novelty.

Realistically, June will be the first month where we can accurately gauge where the market truly stands. Should year-over-year revenue dip precipitously, then it’ll become evident that the industry’s struggles are real.

If not, it could just be that players are diverting their attention away from cash games and toward other formats. New rollouts such as the lottery sit-and-go BLAST on WSOP/888, as well as PokerStars’ continued promotional focus on non-cash game play, certainly lends credence to this theory.

- Robert DellaFave is a game designer and avid poker player. He writes for several publications centered on legal US online poker and the regulated online gambling industries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
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