While doing some research for recent articles I question came to my mind: Could New Jersey become the next haven for online poker players? My initial feeling was probably not, but the more I looked at the numbers the more I began to envision a scenario where online poker pros would move to The Garden State.
The biggest factor is of course New Jersey’s population of 8.8 million, and the millions more that live along its borders. This is going to give us our first real glimpse at what is possible in state-by-state online poker legislation, since unlike Nevada, the Garden State has the population to maintain a legitimate player base. But how many of these people are going to participate in online poker games?
The Arbitrary 1% Participation Number
Most people in the industry use 1% when determining the participation rate over a given year. So if this is the case in New Jersey, we should expect nearly 90,000 players to try their hand at online poker in 2014.
The problem with this number is that it doesn’t give us a good indication of what type of hours these players are putting in, or what type of money they are betting. 90,000 is a great number, but if 80,000 of these players deposit $50, play for two hours, and never return than they aren’t all that helpful to the poker ecosystem in New Jersey.
Cold Hard Data
The only real comparison we have at this time is to look at Nevada, as well as some of the European countries that have legalized and regulated intra-country online poker: France, Italy, and Spain.
Starting with data from the Balkanized European markets: All three nations have between six and eight times the population of New Jersey (less if you consider the dense border population, but we’ll leave that aside for the time being) but being a US state will likely mean more poker players per capita in New Jersey than in Italy, just as there are more poker players per capita in the UK than Italy.
Still, these countries have sizable poker communities and should offer a pretty good starting point for comparison. Here is a look at the average cash game traffic from the Top 3 poker providers in each country:
- France (Population 64 million)about 3,000 cash-game players
- Italy (Population 60 million) about 2,500 cash-game players
- Spain (population (47 million) about 2,000 cash-game players
Data courtesy of www.pokerscout.com
Keep in mind that this is not the total number of online players; this is merely the average number of real-money cash-game players that are online at any given time on the Top 3 online poker providersi These numbers should be at least doubled when we consider tournament players, and for every player online there are likely a dozen with money in their account that are not online (this second number is a complete guesstimate on my part).
As you can see, average traffic is closely tied in to population (the three countries averaging 1 cash-game player on a major site per 21,000-24,000 residents) or 1 player for every 22,800 residents overall. If this holds true in New Jersey, the player base for cash game players would be about 400.
However, as we’ve seen from Nevada, where Ultimate Poker has been able to maintain average cash-game traffic of about 150-200 players despite a population of just 2.7 million, New Jersey’s traffic could be much higher than the 1 player for every 22,800 residents: In Nevada this number is about 1 for every 15,000, and that’s with only a single room available.
If we estimate New Jersey to be able to produce 1 current online poker player for every 15,000 residents, and we bump the residency number up to 10 million to take into account their border population (remember, you don’t need to be a New Jersey resident, just located in New Jersey at the time) than New Jersey’s average game cash-game traffic on the top sites will be about 667 players, with even higher peak-time numbers.
Taking this one step farther, suppose a number of poker players move to New Jersey (which gives them access to online and live poker games), even just 100 would be a massive boost to the sustainability of New Jersey’s online poker games. It’s not inconceivable to envision New Jersey’s online poker industry with average cash-game traffic numbers of 800 cash-game players on two or three major sites and peak traffic of around 2,000 cash-game players, possibly as high as 5,000 if we count tournament players.
(I chose Top 3 to look at the number of players in larger player pools, considering New Jersey will have multiple operators just like these countries).
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