Sports, internet bets near-record levels in New Jersey, but 5 of 9 casinos trail pre-pandemic levels

October 16, 2023 3:54 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Wayne Parry, Associated Press
October 16, 2023 3:54 PM
  • Wayne Parry, Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J, (AP) — Sports betting and internet gambling were at near-record levels in New Jersey in September, and nearly half of the Atlantic City casinos won more money from in-person gamblers than they did in September 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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But the encouraging numbers released Monday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement did not change a fundamental concern of this seaside gambling resort: that its core business — money won from people on the casino floor — is still not back to pre-pandemic levels at five of the nine casinos.

The amount of money collectively won from on-premises gamblers was higher this September ($246 million) than it was in September 2019 ($224 million.)

Four of the nine casinos (Caesars, Hard Rock, Ocean and Resorts) reported higher in-person winnings last month than they did in September 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak. That’s a slight improvement from the usual two or sometimes three casinos that exceed that level most months.

But it still shows an industry collectively struggling to regain lost ground more than three years after the outbreak and the closings and disruptions it caused.

“In the years since the pandemic, a lot more has changed than an individual’s willingness to come out and gamble in public,” said Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at New Jersey’s Stockton University, which studies the Atlantic City gambling industry.

“Beyond the direct impact of the pandemic itself, casinos were faced with other challenges like inflation, gas prices, changes in consumer behavior and the expansion of new gaming products,” she added.

Despite those challenges, she said, brick-and-mortar gambling has still shown growth year over year, and it continues to dominate the revenue share of Atlantic City casinos.

Atlantic City’s in-person casino revenue in September was negatively impacted by a widely reported cyberattack on several casino companies with properties here, said James Plousis, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. But he noted that it was still the third-highest September result since 2012.

When internet and sports betting money is included, the casinos, horse tracks that take sports bets and their online partners won over $521 million from gamblers in September. That’s an increase of 7.5% from a year earlier.

Casino executives say those figures are misleading because online and sports betting money — as much as 70% of it — must be shared with other parties including tech platforms and sports books, and is not solely for the casinos to keep.

In terms of in-person revenue, the Borgata won $54.2 million in September, down nearly 13% from a year earlier; Hard Rock won $46.8 million, up 7.3%; Ocean won $39.5 million, up over 29%; and Harrah’s won $22.2 million, down 4.3%.

Tropicana won $21.4 million, down 8.2%; Caesars won just under $21.4 million, down 4.5%; Resorts won $14.9 million, down 10.7%; Bally’s won $13.1 million, down 17.3%, and the Golden Nugget won $12.6 million, down 6.1%.

When internet and sports betting money is included, Borgata won $107.4 million in September, down 5.4% from a year earlier; Hard Rock won $58.1 million, up 13.6%; Golden Nugget won $57.9 million, up nearly 21%; and Ocean won $44.6 million, up over 33%.

Tropicana won $33.7 million, down 2.6%; Harrah’s won $22.5 million, down 2.6%; Caesars won $21.3 million, down 10.7%; Bally’s won $20.2 million, down 1.3%; and Resorts won nearly $15 million, down 11.6%.

Casinos and racetracks took in just under $1.3 billion worth of sports bets in September, nearly matching the highest levels the state has seen since 2018 when legal sports betting began in New Jersey. Of that money, about $111 million was kept as revenue after winning bets and other expenses were paid out.

Over the first nine months of the year, more than $7.7 billion worth of sports bets have been taken by the casinos and tracks.

Internet gambling brought in nearly $164 million in September, up over 21% from a year earlier and just shy of the record $165.7 million generated in March of this year.

Among internet-only entities, Resorts Digital won $45.4 million in September, up nearly 33%, and Caesars Interactive Entertainment NJ won $5.6 million, down over 38%.