ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey’s casino and sports betting revenue more than doubled in March compared from year ago – but that’s because the emerging pandemic shut down casinos for the second half of the month last year.
Figures released Friday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement show the nine casinos and three horse tracks that offer sports betting won $359.2 million in March.
That’s an increase of nearly 120%, but no one in the industry is dancing in the streets just yet. The biggest reason for the statistical increase is the fact that the casinos and tracks were open for a full month this March; last year, Gov. Phil Murphy shut them down on March 16 due to the virus.
The casinos and tracks handled $859.6 million worth of sports bets in March, compared with the less than $182 million they handled last March. They kept $60.7 million this March as sports betting revenue after paying out winning bets and covering other expenses.
James Plousis, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, said a more reasonable comparison would be to March of 2019, a year before the pandemic took full hold. By that measure, the casinos increased their revenue this March by over 18%.
The skewed comparison made for some unusual percentage increases in March: Both the Borgata and Hard Rock posted identical 178.2% increases compared to a year ago. The Borgata won $89 million, while Hard Rock won $38 million.
Hard Rock president Joe Lupo said his casino was up 25% in terms of money won inside its brick-and-mortar casino compared to March 2019; Atlantic City as a whole was down 17% in the comparable period, he said.
He also cited ongoing challenges the casinos face from the ongoing pandemic, including limits on how many guests they can accommodate, and a temporary ban on all indoor smoking.
“Obviously, COVID, the occupancy restrictions in place and smoking ban are negatively affecting the market’s ability to fully rebound,” Lupo said.
The Ocean Casino Resort was up 151.3% to $23.8 million; Resorts was up 127.5% to $12.7 million; Caesars was up 95.3% to $18.5 million; Harrah’s was up 83.1% to $17.8 million; and Tropicana was up 73.3% to $26.8 million.
The Golden Nugget was up nearly 57% to just under $11 million, and Bally’s more than doubled its revenue to over $10 million.
The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, just outside New York City, was the runaway leader in sports betting revenue, accounting for more than half the state’s total with $31.3 million. At the other end of the spectrum, Freehold Raceway reported less than $131,000 in sports betting revenue.
Internet gambling continued to be popular in New Jersey in March, with nearly $113.7 million in revenue for the operators, up 75% from a year ago. That is notable because gamblers started turning to internet betting in larger numbers in the second half of March 2020 after the physical casinos closed down.
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