Online poker traffic rose 1.7% last week, the second straight weekly increase as the slow summer season comes to a close. Among the top 10 sites and networks, advancers and decliners were evenly matched at 5-5.
None of the top 10 changed their rankings from last week. Overall, the market is down 11% from this time last year.
Full Tilt Faltering
Full Tilt Poker traffic is waning as the Build Your Bonus promotion winds down. The promotion featured an initial 10-day period for players to build up their bonus totals by earning player points, followed by a period of up to 10 more days to earn the accumulated bonus with even more player points.
Traffic surged initially, but then started to taper off even before the bonus building period expired. On Thursday, after the first 10 days were over, liquidity started to decline more steeply. Weekend traffic was almost back down to normal.
Full Tilt Poker declined 6% for the week.
Happy Days Are Here Again
With the start of September, we can kiss the summer slump goodbye. Traffic has already started to climb, with many sites showing weekly increases of 3%-5%. More gains are expected in the next two weeks.
The Bottom Is Near?
In August, the online poker market reached its lowest point in six years, but still remained higher than before the UIGEA was signed into law (see graph below).
The industry seemed unstoppable in 2003-2005. Traffic more than doubled every year, and in 2004 the growth rate reached an incredible 12% per month thanks to televised poker and the Moneymaker effect.
Market expansion had slowed by 2006, even before the UIGEA went into effect in the fall of that year. Growth accelerated again in 2008-2009, when PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were growing by 50% per year.
By mid-2010, the rapid market expansion was over and traffic had reached a plateau. With the help of the recently opened French and Italian markets, the industry inched ahead to a new all-time high in early 2011, but growth had clearly stalled.
Black Friday in 2011 dealt a serious blow to an industry that was already facing its first-ever period of decline. Traffic dropped by some 20% overnight, and the US market has been a shadow of its former self ever since.
The industry as a whole is now in the third year of a serious slump. However, the rate of decline has now slowed to around 10%, due partly to the relaunch of Full Tilt Poker last November.
Online poker may have more hard times ahead, but with the US market gradually reopening, a market bottom is probably no more than two or three years away.
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