The New Jersey online poker market has failed to meet expectations in terms of traffic and revenue. Many of the difficulties to this point have been related to challenges in the financial sector, with credit card companies declining to process customers’ transactions to igaming sites.
The industry has also experienced technical challenges with regards to geolocation services, and some customers have balked at the amount of personal information required to open an account. There is even a large percentage of New Jersey residents that either do not know that gambling online is now legal or are having trouble identifying those operators that are regulated and safe.
If PokerStars is approved for online gaming in New Jersey, will it be able to generate growth for the New Jersey online poker market, and if so, how?
There seems to be this collective “expectation” that PokerStars will swoop in and save the day. State Sen. Raymond Lesniak has been one of PokerStars biggest proponents and believes its presence will have a tremendous impact on the overall igaming market in New Jersey.
“PokerStars is the biggest company in online poker, and we should welcome them bringing their American headquarters to New Jersey,” Lesniak stated back in 2012 and he is still championing their cause.
Despite these platitudes, PokerStars will still face the same challenges as the rest of the industry, and many of them will be out of its hands. Financial transactions will still be blocked. Customers will still need to input their Social Security number when creating an account. The number of false positives with geolocation technology will not change.
So what can PokerStars do? One thing is for sure—the long-awaited entrance of PokerStars into the US market will come with a big ad campaign.
This will help to increase public awareness that online poker is now legal in New Jersey, and reinvigorate interest in the game. The PokerStars brand and their marketing campaigns will bring new customers to the virtual felt that have thus far been on the sidelines.
The arrival of the worldwide leader in online poker stands to help the market grow in more ways than just bringing in new customers. More tournaments and cash games should increase the volume of play by existing customers. While some players will migrate away from the online poker rooms where they play now, many more online grinders—who provide the player liquidity needed to have games available when recreational players are looking to play—will supplement their current regiment of online poker with the new games offered on the Rational products.
Live and Online
PokerStars will also increase the amount of online poker traffic in New Jersey from out-of-state customers. As we have seen with the European Poker Tour, PokerStars is very adept at putting on live poker festivals in land-based casinos. Large poker festivals attract online poker players and raise the interest in poker for other operators during tour events. This was apparent in Nevada this summer when the World Series of Poker helped the competitor to its WSOP.com site—Ultimate Poker—avoid a seasonal downtrend typical for the industry with the influx of visiting poker players.
Liquidity begets liquidity. As the New Jersey market grows, it will become increasingly attractive as a partner to other jurisdictions. And with the increased liquidity will come increased revenues which could prompt more states to consider online poker as a cure for their budget woes.
While the launch of PokerStars may not have the immediate impact some hope, its long term effects can only be a net benefit for the struggling US online gaming market—in New Jersey and beyond.