While it wasn’t quite a U.S. record, the $1.23 billion bet legally on sporting events in New Jersey in December capped a huge year for the industry, which reached a $10.94 billion handle in 2021.
The annual total included just under $1 billion bet at the state’s three racetracks and nine Atlantic City casinos, with the rest being risked via mobile sports betting.
At least a modest pushback from November’s numbers seemed inevitable, as the sportsbooks’ $114.8 million in revenue for that month broke the old mark by more than $30 million.
But that “hold” of nearly 10% of the $1.26 billion bet in November was halved in December, leading to a much more modest $59 million earned by the books.
That was the sixth time in 2021 that revenue from sports betting fell short of $60 million, as compared to the four times that number eclipsed $80 million.
Add it all up, and sports betting operators collected $815.7 million in revenue for the calendar year.
A look back — and a look ahead
The December numbers announced by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement offer other chances to analyze the full year’s financial figures.
For instance, more than half of the revenue for betting operators — $434 million — came from multi-leg parlay wagers that feature potential big payouts with long odds. But even with some hefty (and well-publicized) winning tickets, the books ultimately held 17.5% of the parlay dollars risked.
Meanwhile, straight-up baseball bettors got back all but 4.1% of their money, football bettors lost just 3.6%, and basketball bettors were savviest of all at 3.2%. (The remaining sports, all lumped into an “Other” category, produced a 5.1% return for the sportsbooks.)
The overall win percentage for the sportsbooks was 7.1%, compared to 6.6% in 2020, 6.4% in 2019, and 5.8% in 2018. Increased marketing of parlay offers may well be the key to that annual uptick in how much was retained from bettors.
The $1 billion betting barrier in New Jersey was first broken in September and that threshold was reached in four straight months. Can January — with a college football title game and the NFL playoff games, plus other winter sports — also reach that milestone? It’s possible, but the other unknown factor is how much New York’s launch of its own online sportsbook industry will cut into New Jersey’s numbers.
Online casino where the real money is
The near dead heat in November 2021 between online casino revenue of $118 million and the sportsbooks’ take of $114.8 million proved, as expected, to be an anomaly.
Instead, December resulted in a record $133.2 million in online casino revenue, or more than double what was raised from sports betting.
Online casino produced $100 million or more in revenue in every month in 2021 except February. And in the latter case, the per-day rate was such that a 31-day February would likely have joined the club as well.
For the year, the $1.37 billion won from online casino, combined with the $815.8 million cashed from sports betting, came close to matching the $2.55 billion that Atlantic City’s casinos collected from their brick-and-mortar gamblers.
The statewide $4.74 billion total was up 64.4% over COVID-ravaged 2020, when the city’s casinos closed from mid-March until July 4 weekend. Onsite casino win was down only slightly from the $2.69 billion figure in 2019, representing the last “normal” year pre-pandemic.
The state collected $485.7 million in taxes from casino gambling and sports betting in 2021, up more than 50% from 2020’s $302.7 million.