The prolonged shutdown of the nine Atlantic City casinos this year from mid-March to early July and the continuing COVID-19 associated aftermath have had a devastating effect on the city’s total gaming revenue.
But it could have been a lot worse without the continued availability of NJ online gaming revenue.
Furthermore, September finally brings encouraging news. Not only has online gaming revenue continued to show spectacular gains compared to last year, but under the circumstances, land-based casinos also fared better than expected.
Monthly total AC casino and online gaming revenue for 2020 vs. 2019
An article published on ThePressofAtlanticCity.com on Oct. 15 details the most recently released data from the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). The data show a 3 percent increase in total gaming revenue for the nine Atlantic City casinos in September 2020 as compared to September 2019.
The increase still primarily reflected the continued outstanding contribution of online casino gambling. In fact, the latter had also served as virtually the only source of revenue to pick up the slack at all during the entire time the land-based casinos remained closed.
September finally ended a six-month stretch of lower gaming revenue than for the corresponding month in 2019
However, September marked the first time in six months that monthly total gaming revenue had increased over the amount reported for the same month last year.
Even though all nine AC casinos had reopened in July, they were only allowed to do so at 25 percent capacity, and due to travel restrictions, attendance was further limited. The same restrictions remained in effect during August and September.
Accordingly, it comes as no surprise that revenue from slot machines, table games, and sports betting were all down from September 2019–by 9.6%, 28.7%, and 23.5%, respectively. However, online gaming revenue increased by a whopping 113 percent.
Experts see the September data as cause for measured optimism
Under the circumstances, the nearly $291.7 million in total gaming revenue reported for September further suggests that Atlantic City is on the rebound.
Here is what Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis said about the September results.
“For the sixth month in a row, internet gaming win more than doubled compared to last year. Casino gaming taxes grew more than 16% compared to last September, providing needed funds for programs that aid New Jersey’s senior citizens and disabled residents.”
“These results were promising in the midst of continuing travel advisories that decrease visits from out of state, as well as restrictions on capacity, amenities, and entertainment that have made 2020 not reasonably comparable to last year.”
Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University, also pointed out that last month was “one of the strongest Septembers for Atlantic City casino operators in recent history.” Total gaming revenue fell only a little shy of the record $294.59 million set in September 2011.
Bokunewicz described September’s revenue as “a great result during a pandemic with capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements suppressing brick-and-mortar casino revenues.”
September was the first month since the casinos reopened when they were permitted to offer indoor dining. The combination of Labor Day weekend, indoor dining, and the start of the football season undoubtedly all contributed to increased visitation and spending at the Atlantic City casinos.
Even so, total gaming revenue for the first nine months of 2020 reported by the nine Atlantic City combined only amounted to $1.8 billion vs. nearly $2.5 billion for the first nine months of 2019. Casino win (combined revenue from slots and tables) was down by 49.7 percent for the same period.
Which Atlantic City brick and mortar casinos fared best in September?
Ocean Casino Resort was the only brick and mortar casino to report higher revenue this September than last September. Ocean’s revenue for September 2020 surpassed that for September 2019 by 21.9 percent.
Ocean’s casino win for September was nearly $26.2 million. Only two casinos reported a higher figure. Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was in first place with $29.7 million, and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City came in second with $28.6 million.
Which casinos contributed the most revenue from sports betting in September?
NJ sports betting revenue includes the total amount wagered on sports at the eight retail sportsbooks in Atlantic City, their online/mobile sports betting affiliates, and three NJ racetracks. In September 2020, the previous monthly record, set in August, was broken. The grand total of $748.6 million wagered in New Jersey legally on sports eclipsed the total for September 2019 by 68 percent.
Dustin Gouker, the lead analyst at PlayNJ.com, attributes the exceptionally strong figures for this September to the rearranged schedule resulting from the cancellation of all major sports last spring.
“September was a once-in-a-lifetime moment on the sports calendar when all four major U.S. sports were playing meaningful games all at once.”
Gouker also believes that “the growth seen over the last two months will likely level off once the sports schedule returns to normal. But it’s clear New Jersey’s sports betting industry is setting a new floor.”
The two casinos which generated the most revenue from sports betting in September were Borgata and Ocean.
Which casinos produced the most online gaming revenue in September?
In September, as in previous months, Golden Nugget continued to lead the market in online gaming revenue. Golden Nugget contributed more than $26 million of the $87.6 million reported by Atlantic City casinos and their internet partners for the month of September. Borgata was second and Resorts Digital was third, with $20.3 million and $20.0 million in online gaming revenue, respectively.
2020 overall is also shaping up to be a banner year for NJ online gaming revenue
According to the data reported by the DGE for the first nine months of 2020 combined, online gambling revenue totals $685.6 million, representing a 102.2% increase from the $339 million reported for the same nine-month period in 2019.
Some online gaming experts are now going so far as to say that a record-setting $950 million in online gaming revenue for the entire year is within reach.
Eric Ramsey, an analyst for PlayNJ.com acknowledges that “nearly $1 billion in revenue is a staggering figure to think about.” However, “every dollar has been vital in keeping New Jersey’s gaming industry afloat during a difficult year.”
According to Ramsey, “the growth in online revenue has begun to flatten after a spring surge but the importance of online gambling to the overall health of the industry continues to grow.”
Summary and conclusion
As the Atlantic City casino gambling industry continues to rebound, online gambling revenue should continue its strong showing. However, along with the stellar performance of the NJ online casinos, it would not be unrealistic to expect slow improvement in the revenue reported by the Atlantic City brick and mortar casinos as well.