Judging the results from New Jersey’s sports wagering and handle from February might be a matter of perspective but certainly was not unexpected. It echoed the pattern experienced in almost all US states that have legalized sports wagering.
With two to three fewer calendar days to work with, one less weekend for bettors to wager, and the end of football season, the total handle was $743 million. A figure that discontinued a mark of three straight months with $900 million or more in sports wagering handle, per numbers released last week by the New Jersey Division of Gaming.
February handle unfortunately decreased 22.5% from January’s $958.7 million but up a very impressive 50.1% from February 2020’s total handle of $494.8 million. An increase attributed to several factors including new sign-ups, more wagering outlets, more sportsbook operators, and in general, a one-year increasing exposure and popularity of US legalized sports wagering.
January’s handle for New Jersey sportsbooks was its second-best month since initiating legalized sports wagering in the US outside of Nevada. Their revenue total of $82.6 million during that month broke both state and US records by more than $15 million. They almost hit the benchmark $1 billion marks in betting handle with $996.3 in the combined handle.
If anything, February may have been a reminder that every month cannot set automatic records and continued growth when certain competition is coming.
Sports betting revenue in the state dropped significantly 44.1% to $46.2 million, from January’s $82.6 million with $5.7 million tax dollars being generated for state and local coffers. Revenue is extremely difficult and uncertain to forecast in the sports wagering sector. Based on history, most operators hope for a 6% to 8% return.
Not surprisingly, it was New Jersey’s mobile apps and online wagering that dominated, producing $689.2 million of the $743 million handles. While that number is down 22.3% from January’s $886.7 million, it still reflects a 92.8% share of New Jersey’s sports betting market in February and a slight 0.3% increase from January.
As COVID-19 remains a factor, that percentage is expected to continue. Also, the Winter weather plus lingering restrictions imposed on casino attendance will be a deterrent on bettors playing onsite, wagering inside sportsbooks.
Commenting on the issue, James Plousis, Chair of the NJ State Casino Control Commission offered this perspective:
Casino win could not compare to the pre-pandemic results of last year, before restrictions on capacity, amenities, and entertainment were implemented. Governor Murphy’s order that increases indoor casino occupancy to 50% later this week will help speed the casinos’ recovery. Atlantic City has been successful in minimizing risk to visitors during the pandemic, and it is ready to move forward safely.
As expected, the New Jersey Meadowlands led the way in the state. The nation’s #1 onsite location combined with sportsbook partners FanDuel Sportsbook and PointsBet for $27.2 million in revenue during February.
What will not be surprising to New Jersey is preparing for major online wagering competition from bordering neighbor state New York.
New Jersey owning the opportunity for online wagering dollars from New York City bettors will soon come to an end. Recently both the NY State Senate and the Assembly included mobile sports betting in their new budget proposals, which were approved. With Gov. Cuomo now strongly supporting mobile wagering it is only a matter of time when New Jersey loses this huge advantage.
The best news is “March Madness” and the NCAA Basketball Tournament is underway in New Jersey, where it is expected to see the Garden State bounce back. A memorable month to potentially break the billion-dollar plateau in the handle and create new headline news.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
Email: [email protected]
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