NJ Sportsbooks Affected By COVID As Bettors Turning To Online Casinos

During March the ongoing coronavirus pandemic took its toll on retail and online sportsbooks in New Jersey, decreasing their handle to one third of the month’s expected number. The cost has been a loss of nearly $370m in sports wagers, according to PlayNJ.

In comparison, online casino and poker business in the state saw a boom during March, overshadowing the previous record with revenue of $64.8 m.

PlayNJ.com lead analyst Dustin Gouker commented: “Shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic are affecting New Jersey’s gaming industry in ways that are unprecedented, and that will continue until the country begins to return to some semblance of normalcy.

“New Jersey’s online casinos are a boon to the gaming industry, which employs thousands and generates millions in tax revenue for the state. But it’s not enough to fully bridge the gap from the revenue lost from sportsbooks and Atlantic City’s land-based casinos.”

New Jersey’s online and retail sportsbooks seemed to be going in wagers for a $550 m month. Sportsbooks then raised a meagre $181.9m in bets. For an industry that has seen steady growth of 50 percent or more year-on-year, the handle of March has been down 51 percent from the $372.5 m handle reported for March 2019, and down 63 percent from $494.8 m in February 2020.

March’s handle, which in lifetime wagers propelled New Jersey sportsbooks past $7bn, was the lowest since sportsbooks raised $95.6 m in August 2018. New Jersey sportsbooks managed to raise $13.2 million in gross sales, earning the state $1.7 million in tax sales. But, in March 2019, sales dropped 58 percent from $31.7 m.

Some came from bets made before March 11, when the NBA suspended its season and sent through the sports community a storm of cancellations. This left bettors with just a handful of betting on world events and futures, mainly at the NFL. The most notable loss for betters was the NCAA Tournament, one of the most popular sports betting holidays in the country, which alone would have created more than $150 m in New Jersey, according to estimates by PlayNJ.com.

Eric Ramsey, PlayNJ.com analyst said: “With the NCAA Tournament, NBA, and opening of the baseball season cancelled or postponed, the loss of March revenue will not be something that New Jersey sportsbooks can make up. Until sports are able to get going again, New Jersey’s online and retail sportsbooks will continue to be uncomfortably quiet.”

Online betting produced 89.9 percent of the State’s handle in March, or $163.4 million. FanDuel Sportsbook / PointsBet has led online sportsbooks with gross revenue of $5.7 m, down from February’s $9.6 m. Resorts Digital / DraftKings / Fox Bet which took $5.1 m, up from $4 m in February, followed FanDuel in revenue.

At The Meadowlands FanDuel Sportsbook led the retail market with $233,360 in gross sales, down from $1.4 m in February.

“Professional leagues are trying to figure out a way to get back out on the field, which is the good news,” Gouker said. “The bad news is there is no way to know when that will be, and it doesn’t appear that it will be particularly soon. This is going to be a long road, not just for sportsbooks, but for everybody.”

While online casinos tell an entirely different story. New Jersey’s online casinos and poker rooms smashed their previous sales record by producing $64.8 m in March, with Atlantic City casinos closed and staff sent home throughout the state. It is 18 percent higher than the previous record of $55.1 m set in January, and 66 percent higher than $39.1 m set in March.

Poker, which languished in New Jersey for years, produced $3.6 m in revenue in March, breaking the previous $3.1 m record set in October 2016. Digital casino games have comfortably surmounted their previous high, raising $61.2m to break the January record of $53.3m.

Ramsey added: “With Atlantic City casinos closed and sports on hiatus, the importance of online gambling and poker to the state’s gaming industry has never been greater.

“Online casinos can’t sustain the industry forever, but those with the healthiest online products should be in the best position to emerge from these incredible circumstances. And the tax revenue from online casinos is welcome when so much pressure has been put on the state budget.”

Over the 31 days in March online casinos and poker produced a record $2.1m a day. The revenue in State taxes yielded $9.7m.