When New Jersey poker sites first launched in November of 2013, it was thought that the competition within the market would help the industry to thrive, at least over time. It’s become obvious now, after more than a year and a half, that a thriving market is far from the reality of the situation.
In 2015 alone, New Jersey poker sites have seen a 33% decline in traffic. That’s a drastic number when you consider the market was never very big to begin with. Of the state’s four poker operators, spread across two networks, PokerScout shows that WSOP/888 NJ are averaging 160 players, while the PartyBorgata network averages 120.
WSOP/888 is made up of WSOP NJ and 888Poker NJ. Prior to merging their player bases in the Garden State, PartyBorgata (PartyPoker NJ and BorgataPoker) maintained a constant leadership role.
Since WSOP and 888 combined a portion of their cash game tables and tournament pools in January, that network quickly overtook PartyBorgata. Yet neither has managed to drive a respectable amount of traffic to their sites all year.
What information can we take away from this? The most blatant, in my opinion, is that pooling players provides a notable boost in player participation. Unfortunately, the only players available for pooling are those restricted to New Jersey poker sites.
Regulators should Seriously Consider Interstate Player Pooling
If regulators were to open their borders to interstate player pooling, as was done between Delaware and Nevada earlier this year, it could produce much impressive results.
The Delaware Poker network was only drawing a handful of players before sharing liquidity with Nevada, and by a handful, I mean you could count the 7-day average on the fingers of your hands. WSOP NV was average around 135 players pre-merge. Now, thanks to their cumulative player pool, the network is up to 180 players; an increase of about 20%.
Now imagine what would happen if New Jersey poker sites, WSOP NJ and 888 NJ, were to join in the interstate player pooling party? The NV/DE network of 180 would combine with WSOP/888 NJ’s 160 to create a 7-day average of 340. Give them an equal 20% boost, and it jumps to over 400.
Now consider how appealing a much larger player pool would be to players in all three states. The average number of cash players could easily exceed 500. But until New Jersey poker sites get the go ahead to network their players across borders—something regulators have consistently said they are not ready to do—operators will have to look for another means to drive more traffic.
New Jersey Poker Sites need to Enhance their Loyalty Rewards
That leads us to one more key factor that New Jersey poker sites have neglected to address since launch; promotions geared towards player retention. There have been tens of thousands of unique player sign-ups in the state, signifying viable interest from New Jersey’s 9 million residents, but where those players now?
Thus far, NJ operators have failed to focus their marketing efforts towards player loyalty in any significant way. And if we look at the types of promotional tactics that have historically worked in the global online poker industry, progressive rakeback and cash back programs top the list of successful promotions.
A few years back, the international market saw operators competing heavily with one another by boosting rakeback and cash back promotions, and players immediately responded. The only thing apparent that could be holding New Jersey poker sites back from doing so is a notable lack of said competition.
WSOP and 888 have teamed up on one network to compete with their sole rival, PartyBorgata. If they don’t start offering more competitive promotions to bring more players to—and back to—the virtual tables, there may not be any competition left before long.