The state’s sprawling online casino market shattered previous online gambling records for the third month in a row, just as the state allowed casinos to reopen before July Fourth weekend, according to data from the state’s gaming regulators.
Internet casino revenue was nearly $85 million this past June, compared to more than $38 million in June 2019 – or a 123 percent increase, according to Tuesday data from the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.
New Jersey’s casinos closed their brick and mortar locations on March 16, as part of a sweeping host of restrictions on businesses, travel and public gatherings, all meant to stomp out the COVID-19 virus as it spread across the state.
“June was the last full month of casino closures, and the figures reflect the historic business disruption across the region and beyond,” James Plousis, who chairs the state’s Casino Control Commission, said in a July 14 statement.
Table games and slot machines were off limits for those three months, which pummeled how much the casinos brought home each month, leading some establishments to see triple-digit drops in revenue.
With casinos closed, they resorted to online gambling as a lifeboat.
“Although internet gaming has been on an overall upward revenue trajectory since it was launched in 2013, the increase over the last few months has been even greater with the closure of brick and mortar casinos,” Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said in a July 14 statement.
Eight of the state’s nine casinos reopened at 25 percent capacity over the July Fourth weekend after Murphy gave the green light for them to resume brick and mortar operations on July 2.
“Thankfully June will be the last month with zero brick and mortar casino revenue for Atlantic City. Even at 25 percent capacity, there is nowhere to go from here but up,” Bokunewicz added.
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the only one still closed, will reopen on July 26 – nearly three weeks after its initially planned July 6 start date, which was delayed after Murphy postponed indoor dining plans.
Many casinos, reliant on indoor dining and alcohol consumption, scrambled to redo reopening plans to shift their food and beverage operations outdoors.
“I was impressed by the casinos’ ingenuity in finding ways to deliver amenities and keep guests comfortable in the new social environment,” Plousis said, after having toured “each of the city’s properties.”
“Now that casinos have begun welcoming back visitors with appropriate limits, Atlantic City has started on the road to recovery,” he added.
Sports wagering revenue did fare better in June, when patrons wagered $165 million, at the state’s two racetracks and its many online sportsbooks than in May, which saw $118 million.
Still, that’s far below the $224 million bet in June 2019.
June was ultimately lacking in such money-maker “headline events like the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, and the NBA Draft,” Max Bichsel, vice president of U.S. Business at the Gambling.com Group, said in a July 14 statement. Those could have easily generated a sports handle of at least $400 million, he suggested.
“If MLB and the NBA return this summer as planned, expect New Jersey to get back closer to pre-pandemic numbers like $400 million in sports betting handle by September,” he added, citing a “pent up demand for sports.”