April numbers released May 16 by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement showed some positive trends – and some concerning ones – as Atlantic City’s busy season draws closer with Memorial Day weekend, and the start of the summer season, right around the corner.
Last month, New Jersey’s nine casinos reported a brick-and-mortar gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $231.5 million, a 1.6% decrease from last April. While the dip from last year is disappointing, it still eclipses pre-pandemic levels and year-over-year figures remain strong.
Just Golden Nugget Atlantic City (+6.6%) and Ocean Casino Resort (+30.3%) reported brick-and-mortar GGR increases over last April.
“While April 2023 fell just shy of April 2022 for brick-and-mortar gross gaming revenue, it set a new near-term record for total April GGR for Atlantic City’s casino operators ($420.9 million in April 2023 compared to $386.8 million in April 2022),” said Jane Bokunewicz, faculty director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism (LIGHT), Stockton University, School of Business, who analyzed the report.
“Even though April’s casino win lagged compared to the same period last year, it was still the second strongest April in 11 years,” said New Jersey Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis.
“At $1.62 billion, Atlantic City’s gaming operators broke last year’s near-term April year-to-date total GGR record of $1.46 billion and, in the first four months of 2023 (traditionally some of the slowest of the entire year), Atlantic City’s casino operators generated nearly half ($1.65 billion of $3.29 billion in 2019 year-end) of the total GGR generated in the whole of 2019,” Bokunewicz added.
She said that this momentum in total GGR earnings could help the industry overcome increased operating costs, driven in part by an ongoing labor shortage and higher wages from last year’s union contract negotiation.
“When first quarter 2023 numbers are released next week, we will have an even clearer picture of how current GGR levels are translating to net revenue for Atlantic City’s gaming operators,” said Bokunewicz.
Even though April’s casino win lagged compared to the same period last year, it was still the second strongest April in 11 years.
— James Plousis, chairman, New Jersey Casino Control Commission
Meanwhile, casinos and their partners reported an internet gaming win of $158.9 million, a 16.1% jump from last April. That number is down 4.1%, though, from March’s $165.7 million.
As expected, the sports wagering handle ($834 million) fell significantly – down 18.7% from March’s $1.03 billion – following the NCAA Tournament in March. That handle was also down 10% from April 2022 ($926.9 million). However, the sportsbooks reported a $72.3 million win off that handle, a 43.6% increase over last April.
“Growth in internet gaming win and sports wagering revenue pushed Atlantic City’s total gaming revenue above $400 million for the second consecutive month, which is a positive more typically seen during the summer,” said Plousis.
“After a record-breaking March, New Jersey sports betting took a sharp hit in April. Handle fell nearly 19% from March, and 10% from April of last year,” said TopNJCasinos.com in its analysis. “The month-to-month decline was to be expected on the heels of March Madness ending, but this continued year-over-year drop is indicative of a deeper shift in the market.”
As NJBIZ has reported, while New Jersey remains among the most established and mature sports betting markets in the country, as the sector continues its growth, that also means the Garden State faces increasing regional competition from states such as Pennsylvania and New York.
“Revenue was also down in April by about 22%, but the numbers are up 44% from April of last year. This is generally a good sign for the longevity of a market, especially in the face of continued drops in handle. It also suggests that the New Jersey market will be able to weather the summer slump with relative stability,” TopNJCasinos.com analysts continued. “For the future, sports betting numbers will continue to slide downwards as the slow season rolls in and stays through the spring and summer. This is true of the nation’s active sports betting markets, but a mature market like New Jersey is more likely to experience more gentle movement than the newer, more volatile markets (like nearby Massachusetts, for example).”
The upcoming summer season in Atlantic City will also feature a number of exciting redevelopment projects at casino properties and milestone events around the city, which are generating a lot of buzz and anticipation that officials and stakeholders hope will translate to strong brick-and-mortar figures.
“As I regularly visit the casino hotels, I hear a lot of optimism that this will be a great summer in Atlantic City. Unique events are planned for the traditional start of the season later this month,” said Plousis. “Atlantic City’s first legal casino, Resorts Casino Hotel, will celebrate the 45th anniversary of its opening. The city’s newest properties, Hard Rock and Ocean Casino, will mark their fifth year in June, and Borgata will have its 20th anniversary in July.
“Exciting attractions and world-class entertainment will make the summer season memorable for Atlantic City and its guests.”v