Surprisingly strong month for N.J. sports betting in May, fueling optimism for summer

(File photo)

New Jersey’s sportsbooks overcame what is traditionally a slow betting month in May, racking up more than $800 million in wagers, fueled by the NBA playoffs, according to gaming analysis firm PlayNJ.

It was good news all around, PlayNJ said, as online casinos and poker rooms crossed the $3 billion lifetime revenue mark during the month, and brick-and-mortar casinos and sportsbooks continued their rebound.

For the month, bettors placed $814.3 million in wagers at online and retail sportsbooks, according to official data, up 591.1% from May 2020, and even up 8.9% from April’s mark.

“Sportsbooks have been able to capitalize on the NBA playoffs to shallow the typical summer slowdown, online casinos continue to generate huge revenue and Atlantic City is getting busier,” PlayNJ analyst Dustin Gouker said in a prepared statement. “New Jersey’s gaming industry appears healthier than anyone would have thought possible a year ago.”

May’s bets resulted in $52.9 million in revenue, up 433.6% from a year ago, but down 3.5% from April. The monthly win resulted in $7.9 million in taxes.

“New Jersey’s sports betting market has not only grown into the largest in the U.S., but it has evolved into the state that is least affected by the seasonality of sports betting,” PlayNJ analyst Eric Ramsey said in a statement. “No market can entirely escape the natural ebbs and flows, of course. But New Jersey is less reliant on football and sports betting holidays than any other major U.S. market.”

Online betting accounted for 90.2% of the “handle” in May, or $736.7 million, while retail sportsbooks saw $79.6 million in wagering, thanks in part to loosening of capacity restrictions, PlayNJ said. Retail sportsbooks were closed due to COVID-19 during May 2020, but the total is up 43.7% from the May 2019 mark.

“May handle and numbers across the board provided a nice rebound from the spring, as the Garden State heads into the summer months,” Group analyst Lou Monaco said in a statement. “As we venture into post-pandemic recovery, look for all aspects of gaming to continue to gain momentum, from brick-and-mortar sportsbooks to Atlantic City casinos. This can only help all aspects of the state’s economy.”

Online casinos and poker rooms saw a third consecutive month above the $100 million revenue mark, coming in at $108.2 million in May, up 0.4% from April and up 25.9% year-over-year. These casinos have registered $3 billion in revenue since they were launched in November 2013, PlayNJ noted.

Online casinos and poker rooms generated $18.9 million in state and local taxes for the month.

“Even as Atlantic City lifts pandemic-related limits and retail revenue slowly returns, online casinos continue to hold onto the gains made over the last year,” Ramsey said. “Online revenue has clearly been resilient, but, hopefully, the retail market can sustain this return to pre-pandemic levels.”

Even some bad news had a silver lining, according to Jane Bokunewicz of Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism.

“Brick-and-mortar casino revenues have yet to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels,” she said in a statement. “May 2021 casino win — excluding internet gaming and sports wagering revenue — was less than 4.5% behind May 2019, a really encouraging sign, considering COVID-19 restrictions were still in place for most of the month in 2021.

“With nearly all restrictions lifted, effective June 4, non-gaming amenities and activities such as meetings and conventions and live entertainment are returning to the resort, giving visitors even more reason to choose Atlantic City this summer.”