Retail sportsbooks, casinos off by $450M in April while internet gambling expands

By Emily Bader
Atlantic City | May 14, 2020 at 11:47 am

There have been fewer sports to bet on in New Jersey due to COVID-19-related edicts, resulting in complete shutdown of the state’s land-based retail sportsbooks and casinos. However, there’s been a major spike in internet gaming, according to Division of Gaming Enforcement figures for April.

The sportsbook handle was out of about $450 million in projected bets for April, taking in only $54.6 million, according to PlayNJ.com. Revenue related to internet gaming, online casinos and poker rooms hit $80 million in April — a new record.

Sportsbooks posted the lowest statewide total since $40.7 million in July 2018 — the first full month of legal sports betting and before online sportsbooks had launched.

“Seeing New Jersey’s retail sportsbook handle at zero and its land-based casinos generate no revenue is jarring, laying bare just how much these shutdowns are costing the industry,” Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayNJ.com, said. “The jump in revenue from online casinos and poker is welcome, but there is no way yet for it to fully make up for the revenue lost by Atlantic City’s casinos and sportsbooks.”

In all, the total handle for April was $53.6 million, down 70% month-to-month ($171.9 million) and down 82.6% compared to last year ($313.7 million). The handle was anticipated to pull in around $500 million, PlayNJ.com said.

With retail sportsbooks inoperable, online sportsbooks accounted for the state’s entire handle.

“While no one should be shocked to see Atlantic City’s brick and mortar casino revenue fall to literally nothing, it doesn’t make it any less shocking to see all those zeros in the revenue report,” Max Bichsel, vice president of U.S. business, Gambling.com Group, said. “Under normal circumstances, we would have seen major betting activity in April for the NCAA Final Four, the opening of Major League Baseball, the Masters and the start of the NBA and NHL playoffs, and New Jersey’s sports betting handle would have likely topped $400 million. Instead the state saw just $54 million in bets placed for the states lowest all-time handle since launching in June 2018.”

Other figures from the gaming revenue report:

  • Sports betting revenue was $2.6 million, down 80% from $13.2 million in March 2020 and down 87.6% from $21.2 million year-over-year;
  • Total gaming revenue for April was $82.6 million;
  • Internet gaming revenue for April was $79.96 million, up 23.4% from March ($64.8 million).

“This is the U.S. gaming industry’s first full glimpse of the dramatic effect these shutdowns are having, because New Jersey was mature enough last year to offer a true year-over-year comparison,” Gouker said. “The picture for the industry is not pretty, and that will continue until sports leagues figure out a way to reopen.”

Here’s a breakdown of online revenue:

  • FanDuel Sportsbook/PointsBet: $1.65 million, down from $5.7 million in March 2020);
  • Resorts Digital/DraftKings/Fox Bet: $604,359, down from $5.1 million;
  • Monmouth/William Hill/Sugarhouse/TheScore: $185,627, down from $849,236;
  • BetMGM/Borgata: $93,486, down from $609,235;
  • Ocean Casino/William Hill: $91,069, down from $635,620;
  • Hard Rock/Bet365/Unibet: $43,892, down from $167,314;
  • Caesars Sportsbook/888sport: $20,095, down from $44,413;
  • Tropicana/William Hill: -$585, down from $17,180;
  • Golden Nugget/BetAmerica: -$5,507, down from $143,209.

Nontraditional sports, categorized as other than football, baseball and basketball, generated $21.7 million in April, up from $14.8 million year-over-year.

“The rise in bets on nontraditional sports has been interesting, and with auto racing and golf appearing closer to starting, that trend could increase,” Gouker said. “There are reasons for optimism, too. Hopefully, we will look back at April and see that it was the clear low point.”

Online casinos, poker setting records

The pandemic — oddly enough — is giving the online gaming business in New Jersey a boost as revenue has doubled since the same period last year, Bichsel said.

“While overall gaming revenue for New Jersey was quite obviously down again in April, a bright spot continues to be found in the fact that the state has authorized online casino gaming, like poker and blackjack, which saw another all-time high as residents are forced to stay home from Atlantic City,” Bichsel said.

Combined, the state’s online casinos and poker rooms generated a record $79.96 million in revenue (online casinos $74.8 million, poker $5.15 million), up 118.6% from $36.6 million year-over-year and topping last month’s $64.8 million.

“The almost 120% increase in internet gaming is a welcomed alternative source of revenue for the casinos and the state of New Jersey,” Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said. “April’s results prove that the gambling public is looking for a substitute while the casinos are closed. However, just like take-out for fine dining restaurants, I think everyone is looking forward to getting back to the full experience.”

Daily, online casinos and poker generated $2.7 million during the 30 days, up from $2.1 million per day in March.

Analysts are concerned the market could be permanently impacted.

“Such a dramatic shift to digital gambling could permanently alter the market, even after land-based casinos open,” Eric Ramsey, an analyst for PlayNJ.com, said. “The longer the current closures go on the higher chance there is for a more permanent shift in bettors’ preferences for digital gaming. Just three months ago, it looked like online poker may all but disappear, now it is breaking revenue records that have stood for six or seven years. That shows just how much the market has changed in such a short time.”

The month took in about $12 million in state taxes.

“Three months ago, we would have been estimating up to $35 million in tax revenue for New Jersey from gaming this month. Instead, the state brought in just $12 million in total gaming tax revenue in April,” Bichsel said. “While New Jerseys’ online casino market is bringing in a small percentage of the revenue that Atlantic City casinos would typically bring in, it’s providing much needed tax revenue to help offset some of the unprecedented losses for the state.”

Emily Bader | ebader@roi-nj.com | @emilybader