The addition of Pennsylvania should still provide a big boost to the US online poker industry

Multistate Online Poker Has Been A Boost For NJ And Nevada, But The Best Is Yet To Come

Multistate online poker boost

The Nevada-Delaware-New Jersey interstate online poker network that launched on May 1 has been a boon for the 888 Poker / WSOP NJ / WSOP Nevada network.

The combination of its New Jersey and Nevada-Delaware player pool has propelled 888/WSOP.com to the top of the market for NJ online poker sites by every conceivable metric.

That being said, the overall effect on the market has been negligible.

Interstate online poker by the numbers

Pre-liquidity sharing, New Jersey’s three major online poker operators (PartyPoker NJ, PokerStars and WSOP.com/888) had a seven-day rolling average of roughly 225 cash game players.

The existing interstate network of WSOP.com Nevada and 888 Delaware (the Multi State Internet Gaming Association or MSIGA) boasted a rolling average of 135 cash-game players — both of these markets are monopolies.

Added together, US online poker sites averaged around 360 cash-game players prior to the multistate poker agreement taking effect on May 1.

Pre-liquidity sharing traffic numbers broken down by operator, courtesy of PokerScout.com:

  • WSOP.com/888 NV-DE seven-day rolling average of 135 cash game players
  • WSOP.com/888 NJ seven-day rolling average of 75 cash game players
  • PokerStars NJ seven-day rolling average of 90 cash game players
  • PartyPokerNJ seven-day rolling average of 60 cash game players

And here’s what the traffic numbers from PokerScout.com look like post-liquidity sharing:

  • WSOP.com/888 NJ-NV-DE seven-day rolling average of 240 cash game players
  • PokerStars NJ seven-day rolling average of 85 cash game players
  • partypoker NJ seven-day rolling average of 50 cash game players

The new total of 375 cash game players is a slight increase, but still within the normal variance for the two markets.

One of the more surprising outcomes is that PokerStars and PartyPoker haven’t been cannibalized by WSOP.com/888 to the extent most people expected.

On the cash-game front, PokerStars seems completely unaffected, while PartyPoker is experiencing a slow decline.

Other than WSOP.com/888 combining its traffic, very little has changed since liquidity sharing went live.

An artificial bump is coming

There are only a few conclusions to draw at this early stage. And because of the timing of the launch, it’s going to be difficult to accurately judge the impact of the interstate agreement for the foreseeable future.

The 2018 World Series of Poker kicks off in a couple weeks, and the thousands of poker players that will be descending on Las Vegas will include plenty of online players. The influx of players will lead to a spike in traffic for WSOP.com. But it will hard to tell if the boost is coming solely from Nevada, or if it’s creating a trickle-down effect that is reaching New Jersey.

It’s also unclear what will happen when the WSOP wraps up.

As such, judging traffic numbers based on June and July is a classic case of correlation not implying causation. The numbers will look impressive, but they won’t necessarily reflect the impact of interstate pooling, even though the two will closely coincide.

The true impact of New Jersey joining the MSIGA will be difficult to ascertain for several months.

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What does Pennsylvania bring to the table?

If, as is expected, Pennsylvania gets its online poker and casino industry up and running by the end of the year, there’s a good chance the number of member states in the Multi State Internet Gaming Association (MSIGA) will jump from three to four sometime in 2019.

And Pennsylvania brings a lot to the table.

The addition of Pennsylvania would double the potential player pool, as its population of 13 million is equivalent to the combined populations of New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.

Pennsylvania would also even the playing field. Right now, the sole beneficiary of New Jersey joining the MSIGA was 888/WSOP.com. That’s the only operator of note in the latter two states.

That puts New Jersey’s other operators at a significant disadvantage. However, PartyPoker, PokerStars, and any other New Jersey online poker operator will have ample opportunity to launch a Pennsylvania site.

That will almost certainly bring about a more competitive market. Because of 888/WSOP.com’s current advantage, there’s little benefit for PartyPoker or PokerStars to increase their marketing spend.

Finally, the much-maligned bifurcated licensing system the state has put in place could play right into online poker’s hands.

The reasonable 16 percent tax rate (compared to the 54 percent rate online slots will be taxed at) could push more marketing and promotional dollars in poker’s direction.

Unlike New Jersey, where there is a sole beneficiary, the addition of Pennsylvania to the MSIGA would have industry-wide ramifications.

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Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.