888 Breathes New Life Into NJ Poker In June, But Total Online Casino Revenue Slows

While overall NJ online casino growth is slowing, poker grew for the first time in 15 months thanks to shared liquidity with other states.
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The NJ online casino market is still growing, albeit a slowed pace. That, however, could change in the next several months with the recent introduction of Hard Rock and Ocean Resort’s online casinos, plus the additional prospect of mobile sports betting.

In June, state iGaming sites raked in $22,684,094, posting a solid 12.1% year-over-year gain, with slots and table games contributing $20,926,255 and poker representing $1,757,839.

The NJ online poker industry grew for the first time in over a year thanks to the recent 888 shared liquidity agreement with Nevada and Delaware, along with the high-profile tournament series and promotions that followed.

June casino winners and losers

Golden Nugget, which serves as the umbrella for Betfair Casino, playSugarHouse, and eventually Churchill Downs, firmly held its spot as market leader with a total win of $8,369,746, an impressive 50% year-over-year gain.

Borgata and Tropicana were the only two other casinos to top their June 2017 takes, with revenues of $3,652,276 and $3,609,150, respectively.

Caesars, currently enjoying its newfound dominance in the online poker market, saw its casino totals drop by 21% year-over-year for a disappointing June total of $2,497,403. Caesars licensee 888 recently revamped its online casino operation — possibly in anticipation of the Pennsylvania market — adding dozens of new games, accompanied by a heavy marketing blitz. The effort was likely responsible for its parent casino hitting an all-time high in March, but the initial draw seems to have faded.

Resorts, which recently announced a sports betting partnership with daily fantasy sports behemoth DraftKings, also saw a Y/Y contraction, taking in $2,792,111.

Hard Rock’s opening act

Atlantic City was abuzz with activity last month, with not one but two new casinos opening their doors to the public. While both venues had long planned to open online gaming sites, Hard Rock was the only one of the two to launch its product during the month.

The site’s initial online take was a paltry $5,569, but that’s to be expected, as the virtual casino was only open in a limited capacity and running for a mere three days during the reporting period.

Powered by Gaming Innovation Group (GIG), the site debuted with an offering of 148 slots, along with a handful of table games, instant win games, and video poker titles.

Hard Rock’s brick-and-mortar venue, unsurprisingly, did much better, banking $4,171,726. Ocean’s land-based property trailed Hard Rock, with a total take of $3,007,700.

Will the newcomers re-energize growth?

The NJ online casino market has grown every single month since its launch in 2013. During its first three years in operation, revenue grew at a furious pace, with casinos beating their year-on-year totals consistently by nearly 50%. But, with 19 iGaming sites now operating in the state, it’s safe to say that the market is thoroughly saturated.

While online slot and table game revenue grew by more than 13% in June, the number represents the second-lowest growth rate the industry has seen since its inception, with the lowest coming in April. The numbers aren’t outliers; over the past several months, the brakes have been slowly and consistently applied to online casino revenue.

However, the launch of Hard Rock and Ocean’s online casinos will likely breathe new life into the industry. The question is, to what degree?

Hard Rock will no doubt leverage its premier brand name to attract new online casino players to its site. But it will also undoubtedly cannibalize revenue from its competitors. The company plans to go all out in marketing its new online offering, so it’s quite possible that gamblers who had no idea that online casinos even existed might create accounts and expand the market overall.

Ocean could have the same effect, but with its initial site lacking in many ways, it’s hard to see how it could attract a large chunk of novice online gamblers.

Either way, in the short term, we’ll likely see a bump in growth rate due to the buzz created by the two casinos. And let’s not forget online sports betting, which should be coming to AC casinos in the coming months, and which will create an entirely new revenue stream.

Online poker comes back to life

The NJ online poker industry, at long last, saw some growth last month. The state’s three poker licensees squeaked out a 1.3% year-over-year gain due to the tri-state compact between New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.

Caesars, which hosts 888 Poker and WSOP.com, was entirely responsible for the achievement, due to its position as the only site able to connect player pools in all three states. The licensee grew its poker fortunes by a massive 73% compared with last year, for a total of $814,929.

The agreement kicked off in May, and immediately propelled WSOP.com into the market leader spot in the Garden State, topping previous king PokerStars for the first time ever.

What’s more, in June, players flocked to 888 to participate in the $3.023 million guaranteed Online Championships, a flagship series that had previously operated separately in Nevada and New Jersey.

While Caesars celebrated its new hegemony, PokerStars and Borgata suffered as a result. Both sites had their worst month ever in June, with PokerStars raking in just $564,891 and Borgata banking $378,019.

Unlike 888, the two sites are landlocked inside New Jersey, and won’t have any chance to break out of the Garden State until Pennsylvania opens its own online poker sites later this year. PokerStars is fully expected to enter that market, while participation by GVC, Borgata’s software provider, is still up in the air.

On a more sour note, even though the online poker market grew for the first time in over a year, it only did so by a tiny amount. With all the promotional activity happening at 888 sites, it’s disappointing that the market hasn’t experienced bigger gains overall. The hope is that the shared liquidity agreement will not just allow the company to cannibalize other sites, but re-engage old players and attract new ones.

Total June 2018 revenue

Golden Nugget$8,369,746$8,369,746$1,464,706
Month totals$1,757,839$20,920,686$22,678,525$3,968,742

Total 2018 revenue

Golden Nugget$48,943,837$48,943,837$8,565,171
Year Totals$11,138,986$128,395,595$139,534,581$24,418,552
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