Could New Jersey, Pennsylvania Be In Dead Heat For East Coast Gaming Supremacy In 2019?

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New Jersey and Pennsylvania share a border, and their commercial casino gaming markets are no. 3 and no. 2, respectively, in the nation. They trail only Nevada.

The two East Coast states compete for many of the same gambling dollars, but these days there are plenty to go around. Both markets are on the upswing thanks to the expansion into sports betting and online casino gaming. It wasn’t long ago when NJ was firmly in the no. 2 spot in terms of commercial casino winnings, but over a decade ago PA began positioning itself to overtake it.

This year could end a seven-year run for PA’s kingship over NJ.

If New Jersey makes a comeback this year it will more than likely be short-lived. However, it would be a huge accomplishment for the state, which was impacted adversely by the regional casino boom and later a string of casino closings in Atlantic City.

Will 2019 be NJ’s comeback year over PA?

Market comparison through May 2019

Through the first five months of 2019, the PA market for slots and table games was $1,391,299,317, while sports wagering generated an additional $17,156,706 from January to May of this year.

That’s a combined $1,408,456,023 in money won from gamblers, up a relatively modest 2.6% compared to the same period in 2018.

Through May, the New Jersey casino gambling market, which includes a pair of racetracks outside of Atlantic City with sports betting, was worth $1,306,940,358, up a whopping 27.3% over the same period a year prior. NJ kicked off sports betting in June of last year. Online gaming win was up a whopping 53.5% through May. The brick-and-mortar gaming floors have also done well, with their winnings up a strong 12.9% through May, according to Garden State data. Two Atlantic City b&m casinos reopened in June 2018.

If NJ can maintain torrid revenue growth for the entirety of this year, the NJ market could pass PA’s. That said, the NJ growth should cool off a bit soon in terms of a percentage, as sports betting and additional b&m casino floors factored into the equation for the second half of 2018.

Whether NJ is the no. 3 or no. 2 commercial casino gaming state in the nation could depend on how successful PA’s online gambling is for the remainder of the year. The state’s first legal and regulated online/mobile sportsbook opened in late May, and it took about $570k worth of bets in roughly three days. More online/mobile sportsbooks are expected to launch in the coming weeks and months.

PA is expected to kick off online casino gambling (slots and table games) in mid-July. It’s not clear how many platforms will launch then. It’s also unclear how many will launch throughout the remainder of 2019. The more the better for PA if it wants to stay ahead of NJ this calendar year.

Historical gaming revenues

Pennsylvania casino gambling kicked off in 2006, which was the high point for the NJ market. The Keystone State overtook the Garden State in 2012, and it hasn’t looked back since. However, PA’s market has stagnated in recent years, while NJ has modernized with online gaming. NJ kicked off internet gambling in late 2013. PA legalized online casino and online sports betting in late 2017, but it has been slow to implement the new law, much to the dismay of many industry observers.

Here’s a look at the respective gaming markets, according to figures from their respective regulators.

Pennsylvania:

  • 2006: $31,567,000
  • 2007: $1,039,030,000
  • 2008: $1,615,565,000
  • 2009: $1,964,570,000
  • 2010: $2,486,408,000
  • 2011: $3,024,772,000
  • 2012: $3,158,317,000
  • 2013: $3,113,928,000
  • 2014: $3,069,077,000
  • 2015: $3,173,788,000
  • 2016: $3,213,422,000
  • 2017: $3,226,910,000
  • 2018: $3,251,197,589 (includes about a month and a half of sports betting)

New Jersey (figures include online casino + sports betting):

  • 2006: $5,217,613,000
  • 2007: $4,920,786,000
  • 2008: $4,544,961,000
  • 2009: $3,943,171,000
  • 2010: $3,565,047,000
  • 2011: $3,317,720,000
  • 2012: $3,051,436,000
  • 2013: $2,870,438,000 (online casino started in late fall)
  • 2014: $2,742,128,000
  • 2015: $2,563,118,000
  • 2016: $2,602,721,000
  • 2017: $2,659,014,000
  • 2018: $2,903,136,000 (sports betting launched in the summer)

As one can see, NJ sports betting paid off immensely, with gaming win growth of 9.1% in 2018 representing the largest gain for NJ in more than two decades.

This year will likely be NJ’s only shot at overtaking PA, unless PA’s online gambling market falters. PA sportsbooks do have to deal with an enormous 36% effective tax rate, and the online casinos will pay a 54% effective rate on online slot win. PA is home to 12.8 mm people, compared to NJ’s 8.9 mm. That population disparity matters a lot when it comes to online gambling from anywhere in the state.

It’s also worth noting that PA will soon have a handful of satellite casinos sprinkled around the state, brick-and-mortar properties that will boost overall state gaming win.

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Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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