Poker is still a very popular form of gambling, but it’s clear that it doesn’t have quite the public following that it did during the true “poker boom” years of a decade ago.
That can be seen in a number of different metrics, but one that’s strikingly obvious is a drop in the number of poker tables currently found in Nevada casinos.
According to a study by the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Center for Gaming Research, October 2014 saw just 691 poker tables offered in Nevada casinos, the first time that number had dipped below 700 since July 2005.
That’s down from a peak of 1,002 tables in July 2010, a number that was bolstered by the World Series of Poker (which still provides a bump in the number of poker tables in the state every year).
The number of tables is related to a similar drop in the number of casinos offering poker rooms at all. Right now, just 88 casinos have a poker room of any size, the fewest to have poker games available since 2004.
Casinos such as Circus Circus, the Tropicana, the Palms, the Gold Coast and others have all closed their poker rooms in recent years.
Poker still brings in a fair amount of money, though it’s only about one percent of the overall gambling revenue for Nevada. Last year, live and online poker combined to produce nearly $123.9 million for casinos in the state, out of total gaming revenues of $11.14 billion.
But while those poker numbers may seem solid, one metric paints a much less rosy picture for the game.
“In general, poker has, since 2006, become steadily less profitable for Nevada casinos,” wrote researchers in the executive summary of their study. “The win per table has fallen dramatically to early 1990s levels.”
That would suggest that there are still too many tables when compared to the demand for poker, though the report says that casinos may have a good reason for keeping around poker even if the tables aren’t raking in profits.
“The large number of tables…indicates that [poker] is still an amenity that many choose to provide, though it does not produce significant revenues on its own,” researchers wrote.
In other words, poker may be something that customers look for when choosing a casino to play in, even if they ultimately spend more money on other games.
That may mean that these tables are producing revenue indirectly, even if the per-table numbers look weak.
Numbers such as these may help operators understand the Nevada online poker market as well. As live poker play is dropping in the state, it stands to reason that there would be a limit to the number of players who are interested in online poker, too.
And with only poker allowed on the Internet in Nevada, online poker doesn’t have the synergy with other casino offerings that brick-and-mortar casinos can take advantage of.
That may be why Caesars’ WSOP.com site has been the only successful online poker room in the state so far.
There may only be enough online poker players in the state at any given time to support one room (or perhaps two, as Ultimate Poker did have a fair amount of traffic while it was still open), and WSOP.com is in the best position to take advantage of the same summer bump in traffic for the World Series of Poker that benefits the Rio each year.