New Jersey’s online poker sites could certainly use a boost after months of falling revenues. But while help could be on the way eventually, two critical avenues for growth that players and industry officials may have been hoping for aren’t expected to provide any relief in the immediate future.
According to David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), players in New Jersey shouldn’t expect to be competing against foes from other states or countries in the next few months. In an interview with the Associated Press, Rebuck said that while increasing player pools for poker is an industry goal in 2015, there are no imminent deals on the table that would make that happen right away.
In particular, Rebuck said that there had been some discussion with officials in Nevada and the United Kingdom about possibly sharing player pools on poker sites that had a presence in multiple jurisdictions. State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union County) even suggested back in September that international player pools might be right around the corner.
But Rebuck’s comments made it clear that these discussions are still in the early stages, and there was no specific timetable given or expectations outlined for when that might happen.
The introduction of PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker brand, to New Jersey has been another event that many believe could bring life to the state’s Internet gambling industry. Lesniak had also previously suggested that PokerStars would be up and running late this year, before delays led to reports that this wouldn’t happen until 2015.
Rebuck confirmed that the Amaya Gaming approval process was still under review, and that a final approval (assuming it comes) wouldn’t be happening until at least early 2015. Rebuck didn’t comment on the reasons behind the delay; Lesniak and others have speculated that political machinations by Governor Chris Christie could be the cause, though there has been little evidence of this so far.
Regardless of how it is ultimately done, increasing the player pool is a must for the long-term health of the New Jersey online poker market. A lack of players can cripple an online poker site or network, as it makes it more difficult to attract new blood if there aren’t games or tournaments running that interest them.
Having more players not only fixes this, but also allows sites to advertise larger guarantees in their tournaments, something that can attract players who dream of winning major prizes.
Internet gambling revenues have been declining in recent months for New Jersey, both in terms of poker and other casino games. While the nearly $10 million brought in through online gaming (including nearly $2 million from online poker) helped pad the profits of Atlantic City’s remaining casinos, that’s still far short of what state lawmakers claimed they expected from the Internet gambling sites, which they said could bring in as much as $1 billion a year. Even analyst projections have fallen rapidly, with Deutsche Bank’s Andrew Zarnett recently dropping his yearly revenue estimate for the online gaming sites from $250 million to $150 million.