If there is one good thing that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, it is that plenty of people have found their way to online poker. For the second consecutive month, the state of New Jersey has set a record for the “take,” or revenues, in the month of April. As there are still no current plans for New Jersey to open their live casino industry, it is entirely possible that this trend will continue with the month of May.
April Revenues Crush March Take
According to details from the New Jersey Department of Gambling Enforcement, the performance of the online poker industry in the Garden State during April was nothing short of stunning. In March, the DGE was enthusiastic about the take, but they were not ready for what was coming with the April numbers.
In March, the online poker rooms in New Jersey – consisting of the WSOP/888 entry that has an additional benefit of being able to compact with their sister rooms in Nevada and Delaware, party/Borgata and PokerStars NJ – had the best month in the history of the industry, bringing in $3,629,112. It was the biggest month in the history of online poker in the state, topping the $3.4 million that the poker rooms brought in right after the industry opened in January 2014. It was thought, at the time, that it couldn’t get much better than that.
Then April came around. With an entire month of shutdown of the New Jersey live casino gaming system, the only place that New Jerseyites could go to scratch their gaming itch was to the online sites offered. Over the course of the month of April, the three New Jersey online poker sites took in a whopping, $5,148,373, crushing the record set just last month.
Is the Current Upswing Sustainable?
The current performance of the New Jersey online gaming system as a whole and the online poker arm of the industry is definitely not something that is going to be sustained. Because of the dearth of gaming options – Atlantic City has been closed for more than two months and there aren’t any indicators of when they will open – everyone is heading to the online outlets for a release. How much are they flocking to the online outlets? Overall, the online casino operations in New Jersey pulled in $74.8 million, more than doubling their take from April 2019 ($34.9 million).
While the casinos will continue to pull in good numbers (not nearly April good, but still extremely healthy), online poker is going to have trouble keeping the pace. Prior to the shutdown in March, online poker was pulling in less than $2 million per month, barely even denting the board on the monthly report. This is even the case with the compacted WSOP/888 in the mix, the only operation that can take advantage of the deal worked out between the three states to share poker liquidity.
Online poker also is having a very tough time with their neighbor next door in Pennsylvania, who are potentially stealing away some of their traffic. PokerStars has their Keystone State operation, PokerStars PA, which is battering the performance of the New Jersey rooms around quite well. Recent figures from PokerScout show that Pennsylvania is pulling in roughly 1500 players during peak periods. The three online poker rooms in New Jersey have an exceedingly difficult time drawing in that same number, even with the advantage of an additional two states in the mix.
While it is nice that online gaming and poker is doing well currently, it isn’t going to last forever. Once the casinos open (and it will be highly dependent on the capacity that the casinos will be allowed to operate at), will players turn their backs again on online casino gaming and poker? Or will they eschew going to the ‘brick and mortar’ operations and stay with the online game? The next few months, after the casinos slowly creep back to life, should tell the story.