Nevada’s online poker traffic has been rocky for the last year. Saturation in the market and continued access to offshore gaming sites are prime reasons, but the recent self-imposed demise of Ultimate Poker drew speculation that the industry may be folding in upon itself. Although the market’s player participation isn’t nearly as attractive as it was a year ago, the traffic has stabilized itself since UP locked its virtual doors two weeks ago, and the results are close enough to synonymous.
Prior to Ultimate Gaming’s announcement on Friday, Nov. 12th, that the operator would be exiting the Nevada online poker market – just as it had in New Jersey only two month before – the site was averaging 60 players. WSOP.com was averaging right around 100. When the news broke, UP’s traffic instantly dropped to around 50 while WSOP went on the incline, reaching about 120 before UP officially closed on the 17th of November. In the two weeks since, the Caesars owned online poker site has grown to a 140 player average over the last 7 days.
What does it all mean? Essentially, it means that the majority of online poker players in the Silver State have made the transition to WSOP, rather than tapping out of the game altogether. As for the numbers that are missing, approximately 12.5% of the overall traffic, that portion likely belonged to players who maintained active accounts with both UP and WSOP. As a result, state regulators are fairly confident that the market is not poised to plunge into the depths of the proverbial abyss.
There were several factors that could be attributed to the conversion of traffic from UP to WSOP, beyond a sheer desire to continue playing legal real money online poker. The state’s top operator introduced some new features and promos in a spectacularly well-timed manner. Whether they were premeditated or 11th-hour blueprints designed to grab players from the evaporating UP is unknown.
WSOP was already running some attractive promos to coincide with the finalization of the WSOP Main Event, surely increasing recognition and interest across the state. On Nov. 17th – the same day UP ceased operation – WSOP published a new 100% up to $500 reload bonus for existing players. Then, on the following Sunday, the operator launched a mobile poker app for Apple iOS users. Even more worthy of a cocked eyebrow, on Nov. 26th, WSOP integrated new SNG tournaments structured to mirror the most popular variety formerly held by Ultimate Poker.
While it all sounds well and good, the waters remain turbulent for Nevada’s online poker market. This time last year, WSOP and UP combined were attracting as many as 250 concurrent players. That points to a frighteningly steady drop over the last 12 months that seems to have stabilized, but could turn for the worse at any moment now that WSOP has no noteworthy competition to contend with. Real Gaming is still struggling to attract more than 7 players to the tables at any given time. Without a genuine rival, WSOP’s promotions could easily taper off, decreasing player participation over time.
On the positive side, with essentially all of Nevada’s players pooled into the same online poker site, it could become a lot more attractive if properly maintained. And if the player pooling deal with Delaware comes to fruition in 2015 as projected, it could boost traffic in both states. In addition, 888 Poker and Treasure Island are expected to launch in Nevada early next year, all on the same 888-powered network as WSOP, which could bring back the competitive nature while keeping players pooled together.