Better days ahead for N.J.’s gaming industry as sports handle hits $165M in June

By Emily Bader
New Jersey | Jul 15, 2020 at 10:45 am

Even with fewer sports to bet on in New Jersey due to COVID-19 related shutdowns, better days are ahead for the state’s gaming industry, according to PlayNJ.com, especially with the hopeful return of MLB and NBA seasons later this month.

“If MLB and the NBA return this summer as planned, expect New Jersey to get back closer to pre-pandemic numbers like $400 million in sports betting handle by September,” Max Bichsel, vice president of U.S. Business for Gambling.com Group, said.

This month’s sports betting handle was $165 million, an increased of 40.1% from $117.8 million in May, but was $273.2 million less, or down 39.6%, when compared to last June.

“A typical June, with headline events like the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, and the NBA Draft, would have generated $400 million in sports betting handle in New Jersey. This May handle topped out at $165 million which is not insignificant. It represents a 40% climb over May which signals to the pent up demand from bettors,” Bichsel said.

In June, gross sports betting revenue rose $12.6 million from May’s $9.9 million, and was $2.9 million more from June 2019’s $9.7 million. The revenue for this month generated $1.7 million in state taxes.

“June is typically slow for sports betting so any growth is a surprise, and it appears July will return the gaming industry to something more resembling normal,” Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayNJ.com. “New Jersey will still have longer-term issues. It will take time to recover, and the gaming industry will likely be affected for as long as the world is suffering from this health crisis. But for now, optimism in the industry is growing.”

Even with the state’s casinos still closed, futures betting and nontraditional sports helped sportsbooks stay afloat in June as online casinos and poker grew amid the pandemic. However, the rapid growth has seemingly cooled.

“After three months of double digital growth during the pandemic, it would appear as if New Jersey’s online casino market has peaked for the time being. More people are resuming their normal summer activities,” Bichsel said.

Online casinos won $85.9 million, down 1.2% from May 2020 and up 123.1% from June 2019, generating $81.4 million in revenue.

“Internet gaming has consistently increased ​each month over the previous month since the casinos closed in March. Internet gaming revenue in June ​2020 was 63% above the revenue for February, the last full month before the closure ​and 123% over June 2019,” Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said.

Combined, the state’s online casinos and poker rooms generated $84.9 million in revenue, down 1.2% from May 2020’s $85.9 million record, but up 123.1% from May 2019’s $38.1 million. This yielded $12.8 million in state taxes.

“Although internet ​gaming has been on an ​overall upward ​revenue trajectory since it was ​launched in 2013, the increase over the last few months has been even greater with the closure of brick and mortar casinos,” Bokunewicz said.

Here’s a breakdown of online revenue:

  • FanDuel Sportsbook/Pointsbet ($6.2 million, up from $4.3 million in May);
  • Resorts Digital/DraftKings/Fox Bet ($3.9 million, up from $3.8 million in May);
  • BetMGM/Borgata ($881,435, up from $701,283);
  • Ocean Casino/William Hill ($691,135, up from $439,967);
  • Monmouth/William Hill/Sugarhouse/TheScore ($593,548, up from $466,142);
  • Hard Rock/Bet365/Unibet ($450,589, up from $230,004);
  • Caesars Sportsbook/888sport ($43,561, down from $107,171);
  • Tropicana/William Hill ($5,245, down from $23,476);
  • Golden Nugget/BetAmerica ($66,533, up from $54,433).

“As strong as online sports betting continues to be, the reopening of Atlantic City is crucial to healing the industry, even with restrictions,” Gouker said. “It will help generate new revenue, of course. And in doing so, operators are hopeful that it will help the industry steady itself.”

Nontraditional sports, categorized as other than football, basketball and baseball, generated $125.8 million in June, up from $95.4 million in May. Also, there were more bets (mainly futures bets on baseball and the NBA) placed on the Top 3 major U.S. sports.

“The robust betting on nontraditional sports since the sports world has shuttered has been a surprise, but it will never completely make up for the loss of major sports,” said Eric Ramsey, an analyst for PlayNJ.com. “Futures will continue to gain steam, fueled by pent-up demand, as the opening of baseball, basketball, and hockey nears. If plans continue to move forward, July and August should produce a significant leap.”

In all, the month took in a total of $97.5 million in revenue, up 1.8% from May 2020 ($95.85 million) and down 65.6% from June 2019’s $283.76 million.

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