Is Online Poker on Hold in New Jersey? Is Online Poker on Hold in New Jersey?
Image by Bruce Emmerling, Pixabay

Since total revenue for the online poker market in NJ fell below the $2 million mark in September 2017, the market has fluctuated between that mark and its low point of $1.56 million in November 2018.

And while not all online card rooms have experienced the same fortunes over that time, the market as a whole has remained relatively stable.

Perhaps the most significant occurrence during that period was the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement allowing online gaming providers to share their player pools across state lines with other states that have similar regulations, but only one online poker network in the state, the All American Poker Network (AAPN), currently has operations in other states that it can combine with its New Jersey players.

The increases in revenue over that time by the AAPN have largely offset the decreases experienced by the competition, but it appears investment (and excitement) for online poker for those left out of the liquidity sharing party has waned.

New Jersey Online Poker Revenue Figures

Online poker revenue in the state of New Jersey rose 1.8% in September over the same period in 2018, according to figures released this week by the DGE. In total, the virtual poker rooms in the Garden State generated just over $1.6 million in revenue from rake at the cash game tables and poker tournament fees, keeping within the range it has been in over the past two years.

The annual increase is somewhat an encouraging sign as poker faces some stiff competition for consumers’ online gaming dollars in the state. September marks the start of the popular sports betting season and online casino games continue to draw interest with revenue from games such as slots, roulette and blackjack showing no signs of leveling off. and 888poker continue to lead the New Jersey market as the rooms on the AAPN. The pair posted nearly 44% of the total revenue in September while its two competitors seem content to draft behind for now.

PokerStarsNJ holds the second biggest share of the New Jersey market, but it saw its lead over the partypoker US Network (headlined by the Borgata Poker, MGM and partypoker brands and operating under the Borgata license) shrink. In pure revenue terms, PokerStars US still out gained the operators on the partypoker network $501k to $421k, but last month saw the two heading in opposite directions.

The rooms on the partypoker network increased their revenue on both a monthly and annual basis while PokerStars (operating under the Resorts license) saw its revenue dip from August and from September 2018.

New Jersey Fall Poker Tournament Series

The fall is typically a time when online poker thrives, but that is not the case for the networks that are not able to share liquidity with other states.

PokerStars has seen its signature NJCOOP (New Jersey Championship of Online Poker) shrink in overall guarantees in recent years, while its global counterpart WCOOP (World Championship of Online Poker) continues to push to new heights.

Partypoker once held its local favorite Garden State Super Series in the spring and the fall, but the famed series did not run in its usual March slot and no announcement for a fall series has been made.

Meanwhile, WSOP/888 is ticking along with its Fall Online Championships.

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Shared Liquidity and The Wire Act

While PokerStars may be conceding the market lead to, it surely still has its sights on recapturing the pole position in the market. Currently, the playing fields for the top two online poker operators in New Jersey are not level. The AAPN has the distinct advantage of being able to combine its players in Nevada and Delaware to offer its New Jersey players more games and bigger tournament prize pools.

But that advantage could disappear by this time next year as PokerStars appears set to become the first online poker operator to enter the highly populated Pennsylvania market. And while it will not be allowed to combine its Pennsylvania and New Jersey players at the start, sharing liquidity between the states is certainly a top priority for management in charge of online poker operations.

The ability to allow players in both states to compete at the same tables relies heavily on the actions of the federal government which flip-flopped on its position of online gambling that crosses state borders under the Trump administration earlier this year.

In spite of the courts siding with the online gaming industry, the US Department of Justice continues to pursue its options to have its revised opinion become the law of the land. Political pundits and industry analysts alike expect the DOJ to soon run out of options and eventually acquiesce.

When New Jersey and Pennsylvania Share Liquidity

Once the online poker operators in New Jersey are able to pool their players with those in Pennsylvania, we expect to see more interest in online poker from the igaming industry in the Keystone State.

PokerStars certainly won’t be the only online poker room in Pennsylvania forever. When shared liquidity becomes a reality in Pennsylvania, the AAPN is fully expected to participate as is the partypoker network.

But the advantage that the AAPN currently enjoys will be greatly diminished as the population of Pennsylvania (13 million) dwarfs that of Nevada (3 million) and Delaware (1 million) combined.

For now though, online poker operators in New Jersey appear to be focused on a time when they can expand their player pools to more states.