The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on New Jersey’s retail and online sportsbooks during March, reducing their handle to one third of the anticipated total for the month. The cost, according to PlayNJ, was a loss of nearly $370m in sports wagers.
Conversely, the state’s online casino and poker business saw a boom during March, eclipsing the previous record with $64.8m in revenue.
Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayNJ.com, 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 appeared to be headed for a month of $550m in wagers. Instead, sportsbooks collected just $181.9m in bets. In an industry that has seen consistent year-on-year growth of 50% or more, March’s handle was down 51% from the $372.5m handle posted in March 2019 and down 63% from $494.8m in February 2020.
March’s handle, which pushed New Jersey sportsbooks past $7bn in lifetime wagers, was the smallest since sportsbooks collected $95.6m in August 2018. New Jersey sportsbooks did manage to produce $13.2m in gross revenue, yielding $1.7m in tax revenue for the state. But revenue was down 58% from $31.7m in March 2019.
Most came from bets made before March 11, when the NBA suspended its season and sent a wave of cancellations through the sports world. That left bettors with just a handful of international events and futures betting, mostly on the NFL. The most significant loss for bettors was the NCAA Tournament, one of the nation’s most important sports betting holidays, which would have generated more than $150m in New Jersey alone, according to PlayNJ.com estimates.
“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,” said Eric Ramsey, an analyst for PlayNJ.com. “Until sports are able to get going again, New Jersey’s online and retail sportsbooks will continue to be uncomfortably quiet.”
Online betting generated 89.9%, or $163.4m, of the state’s handle in March. FanDuel Sportsbook/PointsBet led online sportsbooks with $5.7m in gross revenue, down from $9.6m in February. FanDuel was followed in revenue by Resorts Digital/DraftKings/Fox Bet which took $5.1m, up from $4m in February.
FanDuel Sportsbook at The Meadowlands led the retail market with $233,360 in gross revenue, down from $1.4m 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.”
Online casinos, meanwhile, tell a wholly different story. With Atlantic City casinos closed and workers sent home across the state, New Jersey’s online casinos and poker rooms shattered their previous revenue record by generating $64.8m in March. That is up 18% from the previous record of $55.1m set in January, and up 66% from $39.1m in March 2019.
Poker, which has languished for years in New Jersey, produced $3.6m in revenue in March, beating the previous record of $3.1m set in October 2016. Online casino games easily topped their previous best, too, generating $61.2m to surpass the record $53.3m produced in January.
“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,” Ramsey said. “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.”
Online casinos and poker generated a record $2.1m per day during the 31 days in March. That revenue yielded $9.7m in state taxes.