In the revenue filings announced each month by New Jersey gaming regulators, it’s typical for a casino or two to far outpace rivals — either in success or failure.
But in March 2020 — marked by a half-month of total closure of each casino to try to stem the tide of the COVID-19 virus — the degree of damage was shared almost equally by all, and to a remarkable and eerie extent:
* Borgata revenue compared to March 2019 was down 67.5%, to $19.3 million
* Harrah’s dropped 63.1% from the prior March, to $9.8 million
* Bally’s was down 62.7%, to $5.5 million
* Tropicana slipped by 62.5%, to $10.2 million
* Resorts, the oldest Atlantic City casino of ’em all, down 61.8% to $5.7 million.
* Golden Nugget checked in down 60.3%, to $7 million
* Both Hard Rock ($10.2 million) and Caesars ($9.5 million) dropped by 58.5%
* Ocean Casino Resort managed the smallest decline, but by 45.6% to $8.2 million.
The Meadowlands Racetrack and Monmouth Park, which offered sports betting, weren’t spared, either.
Compared to March 2019, which included a full-on March Madness of NCAA men’s basketball, the Meadowlands revenue dropped from $17.6 million to $5.9 million.
Monmouth Park had a similar rate of decline, falling from $2.7 million to $0.8 million.
Online casino gaming was small consolation
The industry got a boost from online casino gaming, however, ranging from increases of 32.4% for Ocean Casino to 124.6% for Borgata. But that bounty for Borgata was a boost of less than $7 million, not nearly making up for the $40 million drop in its brick-and-mortar casino revenue for the month.
Total gaming revenue for the month was down 44.4%, and that’s nothing compared to what April’s results — with no traditional casino revenue at all — will look like.
At least the year-to-date numbers look better, thanks to a strong January and February. For the first quarter of 2020, total gaming revenue in the state was down just 1.8%, to $751.2 million.
Golden Nugget, still the undefeated champion in online casino gaming in the state, jumped 20.2% over its March 2019 numbers.
The state has collected $71.7 million in taxes so far this year, compared to $66.1 million in the first quarter of 2019. So the state gaming industry was on a big rise in assisting state tax collections before being torpedoed by COVID-19.
Sports betting handle — the total amount of money wagered — nosedived to $181.9 million after a January of $540.1 million and February of $494.8 million.
Another winner — online poker
Online poker, which debuted in New Jersey alongside other online casino gaming in 2013, had proponents who played key roles in making it all happen.
But for more than five years, online poker revenue has stagnated in the state even while its online gambling cousins racked up year-over-year double-digit increases that continue even today.
The $3.6 million is but a small fraction of the state’s overall gaming revenue of $163.5 million, of course.
But for poker players, the increase is a big deal. That’s because “liquidity” — the ease with which a player can log on and find a game at a time and a stakes level of their choosing — is greatly increased with the additional volume.
That creates a favorable environment. And the more convenient the platform, the more poker players engage, and in turn recommend the pastime to family and friends.
The higher numbers could even encourage neighboring Pennsylvania to enter into the compact currently consisting of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. That would make online poker play for all even more convenient.
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