A fair percentage of players frequenting New Jersey regulated poker sites aren’t in possession of a NJ driver’s license, nor can they claim Garden State residency.
At the recent C5 US Online Gaming Conference held in New York City, bwin.party Group Director Jeffrey Haas stated that during major festivals, such as the recently concluded NJCOP II, 15% of PartyPoker NJ traffic comes from out-of-state players.
Online poker tourism is not a new phenomenon – one needn’t look further than the mass exodus of players from the US in the wake of Black Friday to know that.
But this marks the first time that players are traveling within US borders to mix it up on the virtual green felt, and it’s a trend that in all likelihood will continue to gain momentum.
Here are a few reasons why:
Number 1: Supply and demand
Simply stated, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware supply an in-demand service that is yet unavailable in any other US state.
Thus, out-of-state players are left with only two online poker playing alternatives: either play on an unregulated site, or traverse state lines to a region where online poker has been legitimized.
Admittedly, the convenience associated with playing on an offshore site is a big draw. However, today’s player is more cognizant of the fact that US-facing sites provide little in the way of consumer safeguards, and that the next Lock Poker scandal could rear its ugly head at any moment.
Instead of rolling the dice with their hard earned cash, these players either content themselves to play live poker, or they travel to a locale that supplies a legal means of playing cards online.
Clearly, at least a handful of online players from the nearby metropolises of New York City and Philadelphia have decided that there is a great enough upside to playing at legal NJ online casinos to warrant regular trips down I-95.
Number 2: Cross-promotion
One of the most successful methods by which NJ and NV operators have attracted out-of-state players to their online properties is via cross-promotional vehicles.
We’ve witnessed this phenomenon several times already, the most notable example being last year’s live WSOP in Las Vegas.
WSOP.com in Nevada capitalized on the influx of poker tourists by running several online tournament series and a focused marketing campaign throughout the WSOP.
Suffice it to say, it worked. In June 2014, during the crux of the Series, Nevada poker sites generated more revenue than in any other month.
Since, WSOP NV has launched a mobile app, announced an online bracelet event and as per WSOP.com Head of Online Poker Bill Rini, has overcome the “one account per IP address” restriction, virtually ensuring that even more poker tourists will be playing online during the 2015 Series.
More on changes to the 2015 WSOP here.
Similarly, PartyPoker / Borgata has hosted its largest online events in parallel with Open events at the Borgata. If it weren’t for the high prevalence of out-of-state players already situated at the Borgata for the live events, I’d be hard pressed to believe that Party / Borgata would be so willing to run $1 million online tournament fiestas.
Live tournament events will continue to attract out-of-state players for as long as poker remains popular. So, there’s little reason to believe that these players will stop frequenting regulated poker sites, even if their state legalizes online poker.
If anything, should Pennsylvania or California pass iGaming legislation, it opens the door for residents of NV and NJ to play online in those states during live events at the Commerce in LA and Parx in Philadelphia, creating a scenario in which one hand washes the other.
Number 3: Appeal of legal online gambling sites will only increase
Since the first US regulated gaming site opened its doors just over two years ago, the industry has become a more welcoming battlefield.
We’ve seen the introduction of numerous third-party payment processors, including Neteller, Skrill and 7-Eleven Pay Near Me, as well as, the release and subsequent updating of mobile poker apps for iOS and Android powered devices.
Tournament guarantees have scaled up in size, and a shared liquidity compact between NV and DE went live in March.
2015 will (likely) see the return of PokerStars, and possibly the legalization of online poker/casino in one or two more states.
Granted, the rate of expansion and change is still rather slow, but the important thing to remember is that all of the changes made thus far have been positive. This lies in contrast to what players have come to expect from offshore sites, where change is usually for the worse.
As the divide between regulated and unregulated sites continues to grow, the appeal of regulation to the out-of-state gambler will drive them, both figuratively and literally, across state lines.