Casino brick and mortar profits tank nearly 17% in January amid pandemic

Daniel J. Munoz//February 18, 2021//

Casino brick and mortar profits tank nearly 17% in January amid pandemic

Daniel J. Munoz//February 18, 2021//

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Despite surges in online and mobile gambling and sports betting, casino revenue cratered by 16.6% last month at the state’s nine brick and mortar gambling establishments amid intense COVID-19 business closures and restrictions, according to state gaming regulators.

The state’s nine casinos made nearly $192 million in January 2020, compared to January 2021 when they dropped to $160 million,

Data released Feb. 17 by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement showed that the nine casinos won $192 million at their physical establishments in January 2020, compared to $160 million this past January.

By and large, casinos have been doing better in the last year, when comparing numbers in the fall and winter of 2020 with those same months in 2019.

In January, the nine casinos and three racetracks brought in $346 million, growing 15.3% from the $300 million they made last year. The market grew 8.9% between December 2019 and December 2020, from $287 million to nearly $312 million. It shrunk in November, but grew 15% between October 2019 and October 2020, from $293 million to $338 million.

But in each case, that growth is driven solely by the online and mobile services, which during the total brick and mortar shutdowns in the spring acted as tentative lifeboats for the casinos. The extended closures or limited capacity for retail, entertainment, food and dining, and events all continue to make Atlantic City’s unemployment rate among the worst in the state because of the pandemic.

Online gaming last month grew 88.4% year over year, from $55 million in January 2020 to $103 million last month. The online handle more than doubled between December 2019 and December 2020, when it grew from $49 million to $99 million.

“New Jersey’s online casinos and sportsbooks have defied conventional wisdom from the beginning, and are hitting milestones that many thought would take years longer to reach,” reads an email from Dustin Gouker, an analyst for PlayNJ.com. “The rapid maturation of the online products in New Jersey has made the state the new standard-bearer for the modern U.S. gaming industry.”

With reduced indoor capacity and other COVID-19 restrictions still battering the restaurant and hospitality industries, keeping the casino floors, as well as restaurants limited to 35% capacity, that trend will continue for the foreseeable future. A sluggish roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines and the uncertainty around the presence of new variants of the virus could further drag out the state’s reopening.

“Casino win was lower in comparison to pre-pandemic results of January 2020, when restrictions on capacity, amenities, and entertainment were not yet in place,” James Plousis, who chairs the state’s Casino Control Commission, said in a Feb. 17 statement.

Total sports wagering for a single month has teetered on the brink of pushing past $1 billion, having brought in $950 million in wagers for January, $996 million in December and $931 million in November. Most of the bets for each month came through one of the 21 online and mobile sportsbooks.

“The state continues to exemplify how successful regulated sports betting can be when monitored correctly,” said Max Bichsel, vice president of U.S business at Gambling.com Group.

“Handle may have been down, but revenue was up due to an excellent month for sportsbooks,” he added, continuing that excitement from March Madness and the final numbers from Super Bowl LV will continue to “push toward that $1 billion benchmark.”