New Jersey casino revenue plummeted 80% last year due to capacity and in-person COVID-19 restrictions for casinos, and the months last spring and summer when many had to shutter their brick and mortar operations, according to state gambling regulators.
Gross profits for the state’s nine casinos were nearly $594 million in 2019, before dropping by 80% to $117 million in 2020.
That’s according to data released April 9 by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement – an arm of the state government that regulates the state’s nine physical casinos, dozens of online casinos, and the sprawling sports betting market.
Any growth last year was driven almost exclusively through online sports betting and gambling, which served as a lifeline for casinos when their doors were closed.
Caesars Interactive, the online arm for Caesars Entertainment, which owns three properties in Atlantic City, posted nearly $20 million in profits, a 45% increase from 2019; Golden Nugget Online Gaming, which launched in 2020, posted $18.6 million in profit; and Resorts Digital posted nearly $21.2 million in profits, a 148.4% increase from 2019.
“Atlantic City and its casinos endured their most challenging year in history – casino hotels were closed more than three months to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus,” reads a Friday statement from James Plousis, who chairs another gambling regulatory body, the state’s Casino Control Commission.
Plousis noted that the COVID-19 restrictions in place after the casinos were allowed to reopen starting in July continued to drag down casino profits.
“Yet, through responsible management, the casinos proved that in-person gaming could happen safely … As tourists return to the shore, they can have every confidence Atlantic City is safe for the summer,” he said.
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.
Hotel occupancy rate fell from 78.9% in 2019 to 61.7% in 2020, according to NJDGE data.
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 the LIGHT Institute released March 16.
Ocean Resort Casino fared the best, posting $21.8 million of profit in 2020, compared to $6.7 million in 2019, or a 224% increase. It had opened the year prior in June 2018.
Resorts Casino Hotel earned $10.6 million, down nearly 160% from 2019. Borgata, which was the last casino to reopen last year and enacted scores of layoffs because of the pandemic, posted $650,000 in profit, down nearly 98% from the $209.6 million it saw last year.
Harrah’s saw $8.5 million in profit last year, down 90.6% from the roughly $91 million it made in 2019. Caesars posted $10.4 million in 2020, an 84% drop from the $66.2 million it made in 2019.
Tropicana had an operating profit of $18.7 million, or a 78.4% drop from the $88.7 million it had in 2019. Hard Rock posted less than $11 million in 2020, a 71.6% drop from the $38.6 million it made in 2019.
Golden Nugget posted an operating profit of $7.2 million last year, a 73.8% drop from the $27.7 million it made in 2019. Bally’s posted $4.2 million of profit in 2020, compared to nearly $27.6 million in 2019.