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Traffic On World Series Of Poker's Online Site Could Triple Under Nevada, New Jersey Deal, Expert Says

Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware To Share Players Starting May 1


Regulated online poker in America will get a serious shot in the arm starting next month, as New Jersey will finally link up with Nevada and Delaware for online poker.

The news broke earlier this week that the World Series of Poker’s online platform, which is powered by its technology partner 888 Poker, will run cash games and tournaments where registered players in any of the three states can play against each other for real money. It’s an historic arrangement for Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the two most storied casino markets in the country.

Bill Rini,’s head of online poker, told Card Player that the poker platform is in “uncharted territory” thanks to the liquidity sharing. It’s an exciting time for the nascent regulated online poker industry, which is now roughly five years old in America. Rini said the plan was to kick off the combined player pools prior to the start of the 2018 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. “It has long been a goal of ours to bring the excitement seen in the Nevada market during the WSOP to everywhere online poker is legal and regulated in the U.S.,” he said.

A deal between the Silver State and the Garden State was announced last fall. It felt long overdue. In 2016, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said that an online poker compact with New Jersey “would be like putting together the Yankees and the Dodgers.” Nevada and Delaware began sharing their players in 2015, but the populations of both states are small and the benefits were minimal. Adding New Jersey’s nine million people to the equation grows the population under the multi-state arrangement by more than 200 percent. The player sharing could drastically grow the games available via the WSOP/888, the only network approved in all three states.

Online poker markets

Because the WSOP is the only interactive gaming operator in Nevada, the state doesn’t release revenue from online poker. However, New Jersey, which has two other online poker operators besides the WSOP, does release financial data to the public.

According to a news release last week from New Jersey gaming regulators, the state’s online poker market through March was $5.7 million, down a whopping 16 percent compared to the first three months of 2017. Online poker rake of $24.2 million in 2017 was down 8.5 percent compared to 2016. By contrast, the house-banked online casino games in New Jersey have continued to grow at a rapid rate. Those offerings were up 30 percent last year and are up more than 20 percent so far this year. In other words, poker needs help.

Still, New Jersey’s online poker market dwarfs Delaware’s. The latter state has averaged roughly $18,000 in revenue from the games through the first three months of this year.

Increased traffic

Just how much will the player sharing grow traffic on the WSOP/888 network? Robert DellaFave, a veteran U.S. gambling industry research analyst, said that the impact could be significant more or less immediately.

“In the short term, the combination of shared liquidity, increased poker tourism in Nevada, and the online bracelet events will drive traffic on to unprecedented levels,” DellaFave told Card Player. “It wouldn’t shock if by June, traffic is three times higher than current levels in either the New Jersey or Nevada market.”

Once the immediate buzz wears off after the annual summer poker festival in Las Vegas, the network will likely maintain the much stronger participation levels, according to DellaFave.

Per PokerScout, the WSOP’s New Jersey platform is currently averaging less than 100 cash game players. The Nevada-Delaware network averages much worse.

“Larger weekly tournaments and a longer prime-time window virtually guarantees that traffic levels will remain elevated, even after the WSOP comes to a close,” DellaFave said.

While there will be far more players on the platform overall, the impact on cash games versus tournaments will likely be uneven.

“While cash game players will benefit from a greater range of stakes and formats, tournament players appear to get the better end of the deal,” DellaFave said. “Not only will the guarantees for nightly and weekend guarantees more than double, but we are likely to see the first $2 million series in the legal U.S. space. It’s these big series that should drive new and returning players to 888 Poker powered sites.”

Rini agrees that tournaments should see the most noticeable uptick, at least right away.

“Action creates action in both tournaments and cash games but what motivates a cash game player and what motivates a tournament player is slightly different,” Rini said. “For instance, large tournament prize pools are easier to market and thus seen by more people. Cash games are a little more difficult to promote but there is almost always a game that players can play in and they don’t have to wait for a specific date and time in order to play.”

Benefits for live poker

The Nevada poker market reached its peak in 2007, but after years of decline the market appears to be growing again. Sharing online poker players with New Jersey could greatly benefit live cash games.

Over the 12 months prior to March of this year, Nevada’s poker rooms generated $118.5 million in revenue from cash games, an increase of 1.2 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. The New Jersey market has struggled as well, as the casinos there collected about $30 million from live poker in 2017.

The live poker markets in both states have been hurt by new regional casinos popping up across the country. Online poker can help reverse the trend.

“The proliferation of casinos across the United States has decreased the need for players to travel to Nevada to play poker,” Michael Lawton, Senior Research Analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, told Card Player. “At this point the consensus is that traditional poker will not experience any significant growth without a national interactive component to support growth in traditional poker by introducing new players to the game."

Of course, the combined player pools will give the WSOP an even greater opportunity to run satellites to live tournaments in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.

“We already run satellites to brick-and-mortar events in Nevada and New Jersey and anything that boosts online activity is likely to result in more seats given away in the offline side,” Rini said.

Pennsylvania could join forces

Just days after Nevada and New Jersey announced their compact last fall, the state of Pennsylvania crossed the finish line in passing a bill to regulate online poker. The Keystone State is seeking online poker applications this summer, which means the games could go live by the end of the year.

Pennsylvania could eventually team up with New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware and again drastically grow the multi-state online poker player pool. There’d be nearly 26 million people exposed to online poker between those four states. “The addition of Pennsylvania would undoubtedly bring us closer to the kind of traffic players experienced prior to Black Friday, but the size of the market will still be smallish in comparison,” DellaFave said.

Pennsylvania is still sorting through the regulations to oversee its online casino industry. It’s unlikely it would be able to team up with Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware right out of the gate.

“In any regulated environment, there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that must be done before an interstate compact can be forged, so I don’t believe Pennsylvania will join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Alliance the day it starts offering online poker,” DellaFave said. “However, the financial benefits of a four-state compact should lead Pennsylvania regulators to push the envelope.”

The potential is there for real growth in the online poker industry, especially if other casino-friendly states take notice of the success of the Nevada-New Jersey compact.

“Add in a couple of big hitters like New York and Illinois, and that should be enough to reach the critical point where players can find cash games and attractive tournaments nearly around the clock,” DellaFave added.

Other states, including Michigan and Connecticut, are considering online poker in 2018.