New Jersey Super Bowl Handle Shows Las Vegas Still Has Huge Tourism Edge

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The Las Vegas of the East Coast? Not so fast.

New Jersey’s first Super Bowl with legal sports betting resulted in a win for the gambling public and an industry handle that underwhelmed. According to figures from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the state’s brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and online platforms took roughly $34.8 mm in Super Bowl bets. The operators lost $4.5 mm, after paying out $39.4 mm to the public.

New Jersey has 10 land-based sportsbooks and 11 online mobile wagering brands.

The $34.8 mm in handle adds to the $1.24 billion in wagers the industry took in 2018, after betting kicked off this past summer. The industry won $94.2 mm on the 2018 handle, so it is still very much in the black despite rough results on the biggest sporting event of the year.

FanDuel says it lost $5 mm

FanDuel Sportsbook might have been the biggest Super Bowl loser in New Jersey. The sports betting operator said in a media release that it lost nearly $5 mm, thanks to 75% of its handle coming on the New England Patriots. Additionally, a sign-up promotion also didn’t go the company’s way.

“After opening at +1 on New England, customers quickly pumped money on the Patriots and didn’t stop. By kickoff, 75% of money was on the Pats,” said the FanDuel statement. “In addition, new customers took advantage of a great sign up offer for the Super Bowl this week that won them $265 on a $5 bet with odds of 53-1. All of this combined to leave New England as a big loser for the FanDuel Sportsbook. Very big in fact. We estimate our customers won almost $5 million from us on the Big Game (net winnings).”

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Obviously FanDuel was looking to come out ahead, but losing to the betting public on the company’s first Super Bowl as a regulated sportsbook is not bad PR at all. FanDuel took it in stride, which is the smart play. No one would like a sportsbook that’s a sore loser.

Other markets

The New Jersey handle was less than some were hoping for, but it elucidates the fact that the Garden State isn’t yet a sports betting tourist spot like Nevada is.

Nevada’s handle was $145.9 mm, nearly four times the handle in New Jersey. However, the Nevada handle was off 8% from last year’s record $158.5 mm. It was the first year-over-year handle decline in four years. The Nevada books won $10.7 mm on the big game this year.

Early reports suggested that Nevada was poised for a record handle, but that didn’t pan out.

While the consensus is that the New Jersey handle was relatively lackluster, it’s worth noting that Nevada has a gambling market that’s more than four times as large as New Jersey’s. So in that context, it’s not shocking that the New Jersey handle was about one quarter of the action Nevada casinos took.

Some people also aren’t buying the New Jersey vs. Nevada comparison, considering that New Jersey’s market is young and Nevada’s has been around for decades. Despite New Jersey operators losing money, the Super Bowl provided a huge long-run boost for the nascent legal sports betting market.

How did the other markets perform? Delaware reported $2.2 mm in bets, and Mississippi said it handled about $4.6 mm, according to reports.

Handle and revenue figures are not yet known for Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Was the matchup a problem?

Nevada books saw a record handle for the Eagles and Patriots Super Bowl in 2018, which was likely thanks in part to the strong fan bases for both teams. This year, there was a public sentiment that the New Orleans Saints were robbed in the NFC Championship game, which anecdotally put a bad taste in the public’s mouth. It also didn’t help that each year brings more Patriots dynasty fatigue.

Did that translate to a more muted interest at the betting windows and mobile platforms in the states with them? It very well could have.

There’s no data on the median Super Bowl bet in any state, or the number of high-stakes, seven-figure bets that the books took. It could have been the case in Nevada that the Rams vs. Patriots matchup kept some high rollers away, rather than significantly reducing the interest from casual bettors.

Reports indicated that the Las Vegas sportsbooks were as full of fans as ever, so while the books didn’t have a banner day in terms of handle, the casinos undoubtedly loved the betting tourism, which spills over to other gambling offerings and, of course, the restaurant and nightclub businesses, among other amenities.

Another problem with the big game was that the matchup produced a low-scoring affair, which reduces the enthusiasm for in-game wagers. The 13-3 final score represented the lowest points total in Super Bowl history.

When will New Jersey overtake Nevada?

The Super Bowl performance does indicate that New Jersey’s market might need some more time to eventually overtake Nevada’s. The Silver State sportsbooks took a record $5 billion in sports bets last year, winning a record $300 mm.

The big game is a good indicator that Nevada could still have a big edge for other high-profile sporting events, such as March Madness, which is immensely popular in Las Vegas. At this moment in time, it seems unlikely that Atlantic City will come anywhere close to rivaling the tourism that Sin City receives during the popular college basketball tournament.

With that said, New Jersey, thanks to a much larger population, is considered to have a higher sports betting ceiling. A 2017 study commissioned by the U.S. casino industry projected that New Jersey sports betting handle could eventually grow to more than $9.5 billion. The Super Bowl points to that figure being a ways off, if it’s ever reached at all. But it’s still likely that New Jersey passes Nevada one day.

It’s also worth mentioning that Nevada still enjoys a virtual sports betting monopoly in its region, so as more states around the country legalize and open sportsbooks and/or sports betting platforms, Nevada’s dominance will likely wane. Time will tell how that impacts Nevada’s position as as a betting tourist spot.

Photo by Shutterstock.com

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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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