Record month for online bets — good or bad news for Atlantic City casinos?
It's summer, and Atlantic City's casinos have the ability to operate their tables, slots and non-gaming amenities at 100%.
So why did online betting have its best month on record in July 2021?
According to figures released by the Division of Gaming Enforcement, the nine casinos brought in $118.6 million collectively through their online operations last month. The previous record was $113.7 million, recorded in March of this year.
"In totality, it's good news for the industry. Long-term, we're still not sure how this plays out," said David Danzis, lead analyst for PlayNJ.com.
Based on the website's data, Danzis said, there's typically been two separate categories of gamblers — those who visit Atlantic City casinos and those who wager online.
But when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, resulting in a mandatory closure of the brick-and-mortar casinos that lasted for more than three months, these two populations experienced a major crossover. Now, folks making their way back to the land-based casinos aren't fully stepping away from online play.
"What we're seeing now is something that we haven't seen before in the eight-plus years that New Jersey has had online gaming," Danzis said. "This is all uncharted territory for us."
Compared to July 2019, total gaming revenue — from in-person play, online wagers, and sports betting — was more than 28% higher last month for the casinos. Land-based action experienced a drop of just 0.1% compared to the same month two years ago — industry observers believe 2019 provides a better comparative measure than pandemic-laced 2020.
"The fact that land-based gaming was pretty much equal to July 2019, and we had record internet gaming, suggests to me that they can coexist," said Sarah Grady, assistant director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University.
Grady noted that revenues from slots at the brick-and-mortar establishments were especially strong. At $204 million, slot revenues last month were among the highest single-month returns in the past seven years.
Grady said lockdown orders prompted by the COVID-19 crisis "created a perfect storm of variables" that accelerated internet gaming's growth exponentially. More recently, growth of internet gaming was flattening on a month-to-month basis, until July.
"I think internet gaming is kind of the answer to the loss of the convenience gamblers," Grady said.