N.J.’s sportsbooks double handle in May, but $400M short of last year

By Emily Bader
Atlantic City | Jun 15, 2020 at 4:24 am

New Jersey’s online sportsbooks more than double May’s combined handle, but felt short nearly $400 million when compared to last year, according to PlayNJ.com estimates.

The sportsbooks were mostly impacted by online casinos and poker rooms — $85.9 million in revenue, a new record — as they continue to boom and supplement Atlantic City’s lost income due to COVID-19-related restrictions and business closures.

“May’s increase is a positive sign, but until major professional sports resume and Atlantic City casinos reopen, the gaming industry will look nowhere near normal,” Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayNJ.com, said. “But optimism can be found with DraftKings, which has become a darling of Wall Street since it became a publicly traded company. That shows just how much confidence investors have in the future of sports betting.”

Online sportsbooks were surprisingly able to boost the monthly handle to $117.8 million, even with fewer sports to bet on in the U.S. and casinos and retail sportsbooks closed down in the Monopoly City, according to newly-released Division of Gaming Enforcement figures. The handle was out of able $380 million in projected bets for May, which was estimated to hit $500 million, so said PlayNJ.com.

In all, the handle was up 115.8% from April’s $54.6 million and down 63.1% from May 2019’s $318.9 million. Bets produced $9.9 million in gross revenue, down 36.1% year-over-year from $15.5 million and up by more than triple April 2020’s $2.6 million. The month generated around $1.3 million in state taxes.

Even with NASCAR and European soccer being added to the board in May, The PGA Tour and boxing each reopening this week, and the NBA and MLS firming up July reopenings, New Jersey betters were still limited. However, sports categorized as “other than” football, basketball and baseball generated $95.4 million in bets in May, up from $40.9 million in April. Last year during the same time, these bets generated $88 million.

“The bottom line sports betting numbers aren’t pretty, but there is a silver lining in how online sportsbooks have managed to survive these shutdowns,” said Eric Ramsey, an analyst for PlayNJ.com. “New Jersey’s operators have been creative in keeping bettors engaged and sportsbooks generating revenue, even when fringe sports are the only real attraction. Thanks to some imagination, it appears online sportsbooks will help the industry get through this.”

Here’s a breakdown of online revenue:

  • FanDuel Sportsbook/PointsBet: $4.3 million, up from $1.65 million in April;
  • Resorts Digital/DraftKings/Fox Bet: $3.8 million, up from $604,359 in April;
  • BetMGM/Borgata: $701,283, up from $93,486;
  • Monmouth/William Hill/Sugarhouse/TheScore: $466,142, up from $185,627;
  • Ocean Casino/William Hill: $439,967, up from $91,069;
  • Hard Rock/Bet365/Unibet: $230,004, up from $43,892;
  • Caesars Sportsbook/888sport: $107,171, up from $20,095;
  • Tropicana/William Hill: $23,476, up from -$585;
  • Golden Nugget/BetAmerica: $54,433, up from -$5,507.

“We are just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Gouker said. “Retail sports betting will take time to return even after reopening. But the path to recovery for online sportsbooks is simple: Sports need to come back. That is finally starting to happen.”

Online casinos, poker on the rise

Online casinos and poker rooms increased this month, setting new records with a combined $85.9 million (up 7.5% from a then-record $79.96 million in April and 134.7% from $36.6 million in May 2019). The revenue yielded $12.9 million in state taxes.

“Land-based gambling revenue almost certainly won’t return in June, and it will take some time to recover while Atlantic City casinos presumably navigate reduced capacity and relatively weak tourism demand,” Ramsey said. “Because of that, online casinos will continue to be relied upon to bridge the revenue gap. Even if online revenue can’t fully replace what has been lost from the shutdown, the overall gaming industry would be in much worse shape without it.”

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