Delaware online poker officially launched in early November, 2013.
It’s now a year later, which is the perfect time to look back at the first year of operations in the First State, one that saw operators struggle with a smaller player pool and watch as revenues disappointed even against the relatively low expectations of industry and state officials.
When Delaware launched last year, it became the second state to offer some form of regulated online gambling in the US, following Nevada by a few months (and beating New Jersey by a few weeks).
Unlike Nevada, however, Delaware went beyond offering just poker, and also allowed those located within the state to play casino games and purchase lottery tickets online.
Low Revenue Projections
Given the fact that Delaware has a much smaller population than Nevada, let alone New Jersey, nobody expected the state to generate as much revenue through online poker as those states. It was also less likely to benefit from out-of-state players, who could potentially sit at virtual tables while on a gambling-related vacation, something the other states with regulated gambling can count on to boost their numbers.
That made the prospects for a major online poker operation in Delaware slim, at best. The fact that the three racetrack operators (Delaware Park, Harrington Raceway and Dover Downs) all shared one poker player pool that utilized the 888 Holdings software was sure to help, but even by last November it was clear that Nevada could only support two online poker rooms for now, making it unclear if Delaware had enough interested players for one.
Traffic Down After Initial Interest
At first, it appeared as though Internet poker might be successful, if small, in Delaware. In the first weeks, there were 20 or more players on the site on average at any given time, with far more cash game players during peak hours. But the site never attracted a critical mass of players that would keep attracting new people to the tables. After poker revenues peaked last December at nearly $107,000 for the month, they began to gradually fall through May, and then cratered to $25,608 in June.
Since then, the numbers have remained between $30,000 and $40,000 per month, suggesting that there is at least a small but loyal player base for the sites. Still, with the site averaging single-digits in terms of cash game traffic at any time, Delaware will probably need an influx of new players to keep its online poker sites viable in the long run.
Luckily, there might just be a major increase in traffic for Delaware players in the near future. In February, the governors of Delaware and Nevada signed an agreement that would allow operators in both states to share player pools. It’s the first such agreement in the United States, and the kind of compact that many believe will be necessary for online poker to truly thrive if it spreads state-by-state in the USA.
That compact could come into effect late this year or early in 2015. Since 888 is the only operator in Delaware, it would link the Delaware sites to those it also operates in Nevada. That includes market leader WSOP.com, as well as an upcoming site operated by the Tropicana and another that would operate under the 888poker brand. The creation of such an interstate network would help increase play at Nevada’s sites, and would secure the health of Delaware’s online poker experiment for years to come.