Despite Super Bowl popularity, NJ sports-betting nosedives in February

Daniel J. Munoz//March 17, 2021

Despite Super Bowl popularity, NJ sports-betting nosedives in February

Daniel J. Munoz//March 17, 2021

Despite soaring interest in betting on the Super Bowl last month, sports wagers cratered by more than $215 million between January and February, according to state gaming regulators.

In January, patrons wagered $958 million at the state’s sportsbooks, the lion’s share of it online. Then in February, they wagered less than $743 million, according to data posted March 16 by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

All told, in-person activity at the state’s nine casinos continued to nosedive because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a litany of in-person capacity restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus.

Total gaming revenue was $288 million last month, just a 0.3% increase from the $287 million gambling in February 2020.

Casino patronage at the brick and mortar locations fell 32.1% between February 2020 and last month, according to state data.

Between March and July, casinos had to entirely shut down their in-person operations and rely solely on mobile and online gambling. Online gambling grew 80% year over year, with the house taking home $52 million in February 2020 and nearly $94 million this past February.

The Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University estimated that over the past year, in-person gaming revenue dropped 48% while online and gaming revenue shot up 92%.

Trade shows and meetings dropped by 89%, which meant nearly 600,000 fewer visitors to the city during the pandemic and the collapse of an estimated $260 million in visitor spending, according to an analysis by the LIGHT Institute released March 16.

“Internet gaming and sports wagering continued to provide dependable sources of revenue for the gaming industry during February,” James Plousis, who chairs the state’s Casino Control Commission, said in a March 16 statement.

“Casino win could not compare to the pre-pandemic results of last year, before restrictions on capacity, amenities, and entertainment were implemented.”

Days before the Super Bowl, indoor capacity at casinos and indoor dining was expanded from 25% to 35%. It goes up again this Friday from 35% to 50%, and Plousis said that could “help speed the casino’s recovery.”