Online Casino Gaming Again A Lifeline For Atlantic City Casinos In May

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The New Jersey legislature’s approval of online casino gaming back in 2013 has gone from creating a modest extra cash source to a significant piece of the pie to, in the days of COVID-19, a desperately needed lifeline.

While states without online casino gaming or mobile sports betting are seeing their casinos flatline since mid-March, Atlantic City’s casinos at least get consolation prizes.

Still, revenues declined by 65.4% compared to May 2019, as the consolation only goes so far.

Atlantic City casinos garnered $222.9 million from their land-based properties in that month, compared to zero this year, according to figures posted by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement Friday afternoon.

Online casino gaming, however, exploded from $38.3 million in May 2019 to $85.9 million last month. Sports betting, alas, dropped from $15.5 million to $9.9 million, as Belarusian soccer and Russian table tennis go only so far for many gamblers.

Still, April 2020 sports betting revenue was just $2.6 million, so the return of sports such as mixed martial arts clearly is providing some sort of  boost.

Online casino revenues were more consistent, with $80 million in April and just under a $6 million gain a month later.

What’s up, what’s down in 2020

For the calendar year, the industry’s total revenue of $929.7 million is a drop of 28.9% versus the first five months of 2019. That’s even with online casino revenue nearly doubling in 2020, to $337.8 million.

Online poker continues to enjoy a big boost, from $1.8 million a year ago to $4.5 million last month. Other online casino games such as slots and blackjack also more than doubled in May 2020 versus May 2019.

Golden Nugget’s online casino offerings continue to dominate the space, providing the property with $29.1 million in revenue in May 2020.

Resorts Digital, boosted by a partnership with daily fantasy giant DraftKings, was second for the month at $17.7 million — a full million dollars ahead of Borgata.

One other notable number: Hard Rock, barely a player in May 2019 at $1.5 million, leaped to $5.4 million last month.

The Meadowlands Racetrack/FanDuel online partnership produced more than 40% of the industry’s sports betting revenue last month at $4.2 million. Resorts/DraftKings checked in with another $3.8 million, getting far closer than usual to their DFS rival.

Borgata was a very distant third for sports betting at $694,000.

Taxpayers take a hit, even if they don’t gamble

What’s the direct hit to taxpayers from the pandemic? Casino tax revenue dropped from $23.6 million in May 2019 to $14.2 million last month.

But that doesn’t include lost payroll taxes from furloughed casino workers, hotel taxes, food and beverage taxes, and other secondary sources.

The year-to-date “win” from sports betting now stands at a fairly typical 7.2%. That’s thanks to a big boost from multi-bet “parlays” that are returning a cool 18.2% to the sportsbooks.

Margins for the books on football and basketball betting from earlier this year are each just under 5%.

And what about June? There are more sports offerings such as PGA Tour golf and NASCAR, but it’s not clear if Atlantic City’s casinos doors will reopen before the end of the month.

But the casino workers should find out this month if they at least can resume working — under strict limitations — by the weekend of July 4, which seems increasingly more likely.

Image provided by Shutterstock

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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