New Jersey’s nine casinos took in nearly $1 billion in sports wagers from the month of December alone, despite taking a 17% hit in 2020 because of COVID-19 closures and restrictions.
In 2020, the state’s casinos and racetracks took in $2.8 billion of income, marking a 16.9% drop from the $3.46 billion the house won in 2019. In December, the sportsbooks took in $996.3 million of wagers, of which $929 million was via the online and mobile apps. They took in $6 billion in 2020 overall.
Casinos had to stay closed for nearly four months at the height of the first wave of COVID-19 cases, starting on March 16 and were only allowed to reopen just before the July 4 weekend at 25% capacity.
“Entering 2020, Atlantic City had marked four straight years of revenue growth and it was enjoying a lot of positive momentum. The unprecedented global pandemic led to the closure of casinos on March 16, 2020, and they remained closed until July,” James Plousis, who chairs the state’s Casino Control Commission, said in a Jan. 13 statement.
“Significant revenue was lost in those early months and, throughout the second half of the year, the resurging public health crisis continued to impact business in Atlantic City.”
The city’s entertainment, gaming, restaurant and hospitality industries have all suffered during the pandemic as a result, and the city’s unemployment rate during the pandemic has been the highest across the state.
The closure of indoor dining between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. has only worsened the situation for casinos, according to Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.
Data shows that online gambling winnings more than doubled from December 2019 to last December from $49.3 million to $99.5 million.
Those numbers, along with soaring sports wagering numbers, were the only two “bright spots” for the casino industry last year, according to Plousis.
“Internet gaming is a lifeline for casino revenue and the higher taxes internet gaming provides to the state, but it should not be considered a replacement for revenue generated by visitation to brick-and-mortar casinos,” Bokunewicz told NJBIZ in December. That includes food and dining, entertainment, hospitality and business trips, she added.
Casino floor winnings were $147 million this past December, compared to $208.5 million in December 2019, or a 29.5% hit. But online winnings more than doubled at the state’s casinos, soaring from $482.7 million in 2019 to $970 million in 2020.
The casinos lost more than $1 billion between 2019 and 2020 because of the pandemic, according to NJDGE data. In 2019, the house won $2.7 billion on the floor. But by the end of 2020, they had just won $1.5 billion, or a hit of 43.7%.
“Atlantic City’s stakeholders have been working hard to build a strong foundation for recovery,” Plousis continued on Wednesday. “As society begins to approach a return to normalcy, Atlantic City will be ready to restore its recent positive momentum.”
Only one casino – the Golden Nugget – actually fared better in 2020. They took in $415.5 million last year, a 9.8% increase from the $378 million they won in 2019.
Borgata Atlantic City, which was the last casino to reopen and laid off more than 3,000 workers, took a 27.6% hit, from $797.8 million in 2019 to $577 million in 2020. The most deeply hit was Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, which took a 46.8% hit: from $312.7 million in 2019 to $166 million in 2020.
Caesars Atlantic City and Resorts Casino Hotel both felt a 43.8% blow between 2019 and 2020. Caesars went from $271 million of winnings in 2019 to $152.4 million in 2020, while Resorts went from $178.4 million of winnings in 2019 to just over $100 million last year.