Last week, the allure of candy, ghost stories and mischief lured NJ grinders away from the comfort of their computer chairs. As a result, on All Hallows’ Eve, total cash game traffic on the Garden State’s poker sites dropped to its lowest point of the year.
This isn’t the first time a holiday has wrecked havoc on liquidity. As far back as early-February, the Super Bowl precipitated an 18% volume drop. Labor Day too, had a devastating effect on cash game traffic.
But the difference between then and now is that, in my estimation, the market can no longer afford to shed customers. Or at least, not before considering serious cutbacks to their already mediocre welcome packages, loyalty programs and promotional offerings.
Speaking of which, the recent downtrend wasn’t helped by the gross absence of promotional vehicles. Time and time again, end of month liquidity has suffered because there is a notable gap, be it three days, a week or more, between the conclusion of one promotional cycle and the advent of the next. And with each cycle, the industry bleeds a few more players.
Granted, it’s not the sole factor driving the industry’s cash game tallies down into the dumps, but it is one operators have the immediate ability to rectify – WSOP.com, I’m looking at you.
And with that, here’s a look at this week’s numbers:
NJ cash game traffic by the number
Listed below are current 7-day cash game averages for NJ sites (last week’s figures in parenthesis):
In mid-October, WSOP.com was breathing down the neck of closest rival Party / Borgata, but since, the latter has reestablished a 18% lead. I would expect WSOP.com to make up some, if not all, of its lost ground in the upcoming weeks, as many of the site’s newest promos, Rising Ranks included, are targeted directly at recreational cash game players.
Party, on the other hand, appears to have shifted its promotional focus away from poker entirely, instead opting to promote its casino games. Which would be fine if its partner wasn’t offering the same blase promotions for the past 4-5 months.
In fact, the Borgata’s only new promotion for November is more of an event than a promotion. The Fall Poker Open Championship Qualifier is a series of three preliminary satellites and one direct qualifier into this month’s Poker Open Championship, held at the Borgata’s brick & mortar casino in Atlantic City. It’s also one of the weaker cross-promotional events in recent memory.
That leaves us with 888, which has chosen to take the lazy man’s route and extend its current Fall Festival promo as opposed to offering anything new.
Overall, traffic in NJ is down 2.9% since last week and 10.6% over the past two, but trending upward. Global numbers are up nearly 4% over an equivalent time frame, indicating that the long overdue seasonal surge is finally in full effect.
Tournament review: Weekend turnouts on Party / Borgata soar
It’s difficult to say why, but tournament traffic on Party / Borgata this weekend was notably up.
- The network’s flagship tournament, a $185+$15, $50,000 GTD, drew 291 runners. This is significant for two reasons. For one it marked a 10% increase in week-over-week turnouts, and secondly, it was the first time in quite some time that the network wasn’t forced to pay an overlay.
- Turnouts for Sunday’s $10,000 GTD were also up (159 vs. 134 last week), creating a prize pool of $14,469.
- Saturday’s $10k drew 117 combatants, a staggering 34% more than the week before.
Week-over-week turnouts for WSOP’s and 888’s Majors were about on par with what they were last week.
If I had to guess, the looming presence of the Borgata Poker Open was at least partially accountable for the above average turnouts on Party / Borgata.
The immediate future of NJ’s iPoker industry is very much dependent on several variables, including:
- PokerStars: Should the online gaming giant launch in NJ within the next several weeks, expect its presence to have an immediate and marketed effect on total cash game liquidity.
- Paypal: If the rumors are true, Paypal will be available as a payment option by the end of this year. The payment processor’s entry into the regulated gambling landscape probably won’t have a huge short-term impact, but could entice players that have had their credit / debit card transactions denied to give regulated gambling another go.
- The Borgata Poker Open: It will be interesting to see if tournament volume on Party / Borgata remains high for the duration of the Open.
- Software patches: NJ’s poker clients haven’t seen substantial upgrades in what feels like forever. A feature rich patch that addresses lingering geolocation issues may lure frustrated players back to the virtual felt.
- Thanksgiving: While I expect traffic to dip on Thanksgiving Day, a high number of 9-5 employees are expected to take that week off, which could lead to a temporary traffic surge.