Online gambling still rules even with casinos open again

Daniel J. Munoz//August 12, 2020

Online gambling still rules even with casinos open again

Daniel J. Munoz//August 12, 2020

Despite all nine New Jersey casinos being open for business in July, online gambling remained hot as bettors apparently preferred to place their wagers remotely.

Only two Atlantic City casinos fared well last month – Ocean Resort Casino and Golden Nugget – according to numbers released Aug. 12 by the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Revenue for all nine casinos totaled $264 million in July, a steep drop from last year when they took in nearly $335 million. The online sportsbooks brought in nearly $296 million in July, and just $19 million from its in-person pools. That was largely in line with what the physical and virtual sportsbooks took home last year: $38 million and $213 million respectively.

Casino wins at the brick and mortar locations themselves were $147 million, compared to $277 million last year.

Dustin Gouker, analyst for PlayNJ.com.
Dustin Gouker, analyst for PlayNJ.com. – PLAYNJ.COM

“It will take some time before Atlantic City rebounds from the closures of the last few months, but we have at least turned a corner in the market with the return of the retail sector,” PlayNJ.com analyst Dustin Gouker said in a statement. “However, online casinos and sportsbooks should drive the overall market as long as the pandemic continues.”

Ocean Resort was the only establishment showing a year-over-year improvement on the casino floor in July, winning $23.6 million compared to $19 million last year.

“Although July’s results are lower than the same month last year, the two years are not reasonably comparable – some casinos reopened in phases beginning on July 2, and historical market leader Borgata reopened on July 26,” James Plousis, who heads the state’s Casino Control Commission, said in a statement.

“Travel advisories also remain in effect, limiting visitors from out of state.”

The July Fourth weekend marked the first time that patrons could gamble in person since the casinos were closed on March 16 under a set of orders Gov. Phil Murphy signed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Table games and slot machines were off-limits for those three months, hitting the casinos hard and leading some establishments to show triple-digit drops in revenue.

With casinos closed, online gambling offered a lifeline. In July, online revenue increased from more than $39 million last July to almost $86 million. Caesars Interactive NJ – the online gambling arm of the gaming behemoth – was the only of the company’s properties in the state that did better. It brought in $9.6 million this July, compared to $5 million last year.

Caesars’ four properties – Harrah’s Resort, Caesars Atlantic City and Bally’s Atlantic City – all fared worse in 2020 than in 2019. Tropicana, which Caesars now controls after a $17.3 billion merger with El Dorado Resorts, also showed deterioration.

Resorts Digital – the online gambling arm of Resorts Casino Hotel – raked in $26 million from online gambling, a triple digit increase from the $10.5 million the gaming outfit generated last year.

The uncertainty surrounding the fall football season, and the possibility that the current baseball and basketball seasons could be upended at any moment in the event of an outbreak, could all devastating effects on the state’s sports-betting market.

On Tuesday, the Big Ten Athletic Conference said it was cancelling its fall football season, as did the Pac-12. “If college football is canceled which is looking inevitable, sports betting revenue potentially flattens for the remainder of the year,” Max Bichsel, vice president of U.S. business at the Gambling.com group, said in a statement.

“All attention will shift to the NFL, which we optimistically believe is planning for some sort of safe return this fall.”

Read more in the upcoming Aug. 17, 2020 issue of NJBIZ:

Chipping away: Casinos and gamblers bet on the July reopening. It hasn’t quite paid off yet