By Skip Charles in Vegas
Casino, sports betting and online betting in New Jersey brought in over $4.7 billion in 2021, but the casinos’ core business — in-person gambling — did slightly poorer than it did before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Figures released Friday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show the nine casinos won a total of $2.55 billion last year from gamblers on their premises.
That’s $1 billion better than they did in 2020, when the initial outbreak of COVID-19 forced casinos to close for 3 1/2 months, and to operate under capacity restrictions even after they reopened.
“These results are a remarkable achievement for Atlantic City in light of the lingering pandemic,” said James Plousis, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.
But it was less than the $2.68 billion the casinos won from in-person gamblers in 2019, the pre-pandemic comparison most of the city’s casino executives say is more accurate.
“Atlantic City’s casino industry, like the region’s gaming hospitality and tourism businesses overall, has proven resilient, but still vulnerable to fluctuations in COVID-19 infection rates and caseloads,” Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at Stockton University, which studies the Atlantic City gambling industry, told the Associated Press.
“Even as other sectors of the gaming business, internet gaming especially, show significant and steady revenue growth, coronavirus surges and waves like the Delta and Omicron variants continue to prove an obstacle to sustained recovery for Atlantic City’s brick-and-mortar casino operations,” she said.
Money from New Jersey’s top-in-the-nation sports betting market and its robust internet gambling industries have provided new revenue streams.
But casino executives point out that money from those sources must be shared with third parties including sports books and technology partners, and is not solely for the casinos to keep.
Internet gambling brought in $1.3 billion, and sports betting provided nearly $816 million after winning bets and other expenses were paid.
New Jersey took in nearly $1.23 billion in sports bets in December, the fourth straight month it surpassed the $1 billion mark. For the year, the casinos and three horse tracks that accept sports bets handled nearly $11 billion worth of wagers on professional and collegiate sports. (Money the tracks won on horse racing is not included in these totals.)
The casinos and tracks kept 7.1% of the total amount bet as sports betting winnings, in line with national industry averages.
Including all forms of gambling revenue, the Borgata was once again Atlantic City’s top-performing casino, winning $1.1 billion from gamblers in 2021, twice as much as its nearest competitor, Hard Rock, which won $511 million.
Tropicana was third with $355 million; followed by the Ocean casino at $342 million; Harrah’s at $267 million; Caesars at $242 million; Resorts at $168 million, Golden Nugget at $148 million, and Bally’s at $144 million.
Among internet-only entities, Resorts Digital won $450 million; Golden Nugget Online Gaming won nearly $380 million, and Caesars Interactive NJ won $112 million.
Joe Lupo, Hard Rock’s Atlantic City president, said his casino’s in-person gambling revenue compared to 2019 rose from $324 million to $431 million. Ocean was the only other Atlantic City casino to increase its in-person revenue compared to 2019, going from $215 million to $306 million.
He said while the city continues to deal with the pandemic and labor market challenges, “We feel very fortunate to move into 2022 with a great team, dynamic brand and support from ownership.”
Taxes on the various forms of gambling revenue provided nearly a half billion dollars to New Jersey’s coffers in 2021.