ATLANTIC CITY — A record-setting month for legal sports betting and a triple-digit percentage increase in online gaming revenue helped cushion another monthly decline in brick-and-mortar gaming revenue for the city’s nine casinos.
Total gaming revenue reported by Atlantic City’s casinos was $304 million in October, a year-over-year increase of 14.2%, according to data released Friday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Online gaming revenue increased more than 106% in October, accounting for $93.45 million of the industry’s monthly total.
Sports gamblers also wagered a record-setting $803 million — a figure that includes bets placed with casinos, New Jersey’s three licensed racetracks or online/mobile sites — which generated $24.56 million for Atlantic City’s casinos and $58.5 million statewide.
However, the 8% year-over-year decrease in casino win — revenue from table games and slot machines — highlights the impact of the novel coronavirus on Atlantic City, most notably because of capacity limitations, travel restrictions and a national recession.
Since reopening in early July after a 107-day mandatory shutdown, Atlantic City casinos have reported year-over-year declines in casino win each month.
Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said the growth of online gaming in any form, either internet casino or sports betting, should not be “considered a substitute for land-based gaming in terms of overall recovery for the industry.”
“Without guests on property, Atlantic City’s casinos are limited in their ability to leverage non-gaming amenities, which limits their ability to put more employees back to work,” Bokunewicz said.
The casinos reported $186.1 million in casino win in October, a decrease of more than $16 million from the same period in 2019. Only two properties, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort, reported an increase in casino win last month.
Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis touted the industry’s performance for operating in a challenging and unpredictable environment.
“During this time, Atlantic City continues to show resilience in the face of necessary and ongoing restrictions on capacity, amenities and entertainment,” Plousis said Friday in a statement.
The nearly four-month industrywide closure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which began March 16 and lasted until Gov. Phil Murphy permitted the gambling parlors to reopen July 2, significantly impacted the casinos’ annual performance. Through the first 10 months of 2020, total gaming revenue and casino win have declined by 23% and 46%, respectively, compared to the same period last year.
Annual total gaming revenue in Atlantic City has increased year over year since 2015.
“With two months left in the calendar year, it is unlikely that 2020 will meet or exceed 2019’s recent high for annual total casino industry gaming revenue (of) $3.29 billion, but at $2.1 billion to date, it may at least meet or exceed 2015’s recent low of $2.56 billion,” Bokunewicz said.
Legalized sports betting benefitted from World Series and NBA Finals action, in addition to the more customary professional and collegiate football schedule. October’s monthly handle — the total amount of wagers placed — easily bested the prior monthly record of $748.6 million set in September.
“The record-setting pace has now continued even as October’s sports schedule returned to something more resembling normal, which is a great sign for the industry’s near-term,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst at PlayNJ.com. “New Jersey is now clearly the standard-bearer among legal sports jurisdictions, and the state seems to only be widening the gap.”
Year to date, New Jersey sportsbooks have accepted nearly $4.1 billion in legal wagers, putting the market on pace to break Nevada’s single-year record of $5.3 billion.
“October’s results suggest a new permanent trajectory for New Jersey, with no apparent signs of letting up,” Gouker said.
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