New Jersey brick and mortar casino revenue soared in April, fueled by what many industry insiders describe as “pent up demand.”
Data from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which regulates the state’s casinos, show that the nine gambling establishments brought in $189.6 million from their casino floor winnings this past April. They brought in nearly $185 million in March.
All nine casinos had to shutter in-person operations during April last year in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19. And so, the NJDGE notes that there cannot be a valid year-over-year comparison. Rather, insiders are looking at 2021 comparisons to 2019 – a year that scored numerous record-breakers for the casino industry.
Even still, New Jersey’s casinos during the first quarter of 2021 – January through April – were up 30% from the same time period in 2019 and 32% from the same three months in 2020, according to a report last week by the American Gaming Association.
“During the first quarter, consumers began to emerge from COVID-induced isolation, boosted by increasing vaccination rates, an increasingly optimistic economic outlook and significant pent-up demand for travel and entertainment,” the AGA report reads. “Taken together, these factors propelled quarterly commercial gaming revenue to pre-pandemic levels.”
The pandemic closures wielded a devastating blow to the casino industry, forcing the entire sector to rely solely on online gambling and sports betting.
New Jersey drew in nearly $108 million from online casino winnings last month, compared to less than $80 million in April last year and just $36 million in April 2019.
“Strong total gaming revenue returns for April 2021 mark the second consecutive month when operators exceeded pre-pandemic levels,” said Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.
“We expect this to become a lasting trend over the summer as improving pandemic conditions, pent up demand and the return of warmer weather should continue to drive recovery for Atlantic City’s casino operators,” she added.
Patrons wagered nearly $748 million on the state’s sportsbooks through April, showing a dip from the prior month, when patrons bet $860 million amid the first NCAA March Madness tournament in two years.
Going into the pandemic, online and mobile app wagering made up the lion’s share of sports betting done in the state. The pandemic buoyed that consumer practice and the degree to which customers will return to the in-person sportsbooks and casinos versus remaining online is still up in the air.
“Retail betting is slowly returning to normal, and that could become even more pronounced when all capacity restrictions are lifted,” said Dustin Gouker, an analyst at PlayNJ.com.
“That won’t make a major difference for online sportsbooks, which are overwhelmingly preferred by bettors,” Gouker continued. “But it could have an impact on online casino revenue, which made a massive and sustained jump since pandemic-related restrictions began last year.”
James Plousis, who heads the state’s Casino Control Commission, said that in light of those reopenings he expects the city could “welcome back visitors for the Memorial Day weekend” en masse.