April was an excruciating month for the legal sports betting industry in the US. With all brick-and-mortar facilities closed and with Major sports around the world locked down, it has become increasingly difficult to find a feel-good industry story. That was before New Jersey released their gaming numbers for April. While April saw predictable declines in overall handle, some sectors of the platform actually spiked and kept the losses in "respectable territory".
Kudos to New Jersey, which has been especially hard-hit by COVID-19 for still chugging along. While in-person games like slots, table games and bets on sports saw some incredible declines, the state was able to make up for the intense shortcomings in other ways. Online and casino games were able to mitigate at least some of the sportsbook losses in April, and keep the top-tier New Jersey legal betting platform in the shrinking list of gambling Heavyweights.
First, the bad
Gaming revenues, understandably, continue to drop across the US with the most successful states prior to the coronavirus pandemic seeing the starkest drop-offs. New Jersey, being one of those successful states saw a 68.9% year-over-year decrease in handle in April – from $265.4 million in 2019 to $82.6 million last month. April's handle dropped 49.5% from March, when the betting public had a couple of weeks of regular wagering opportunities.
Sports betting and in-person gambling dragged the New Jersey figures down – not surprising considering the state of sports (or lack of) during the month of April. Sports betting plunged 82.6% to $54.6 million from $313.7 million in the same month last year – by far the lowest total in the two years New Jersey has enjoyed legal sports betting. The handle declined 66.6% from March to April of this year.
Betting revenue came in down an eye-opening 87.6% to just $2.6 million in April which is a sharp drop from the $21.2 million the state generated in April of 2019. With no sports and no in-person table game betting, it is somewhat of a surprise that the numbers didn't come in even lower. After all, land-based casinos posted $207.6 million in revenue in April of last year.
Now for the good news
Online casinos in New Jersey picked up some of the slack from the barely existent sports betting industry. Online casinos in New Jersey generated $79.9 million in bets which represents a 23.5% increase from March and an incredible 118.5% increase from April of 2019.
John Pappas, a leading consultant on the sports betting industry in New Jersey remarked on Twitter that: "iGaming ($74M+) and iPoker ($5M+) generated just under $80 million in operator revenue for New Jersey in April 2020. Importantly it produced $12M+ in TAX REVENUE for a state that would have been left with ZERO in taxes from regulated gaming if not for iGaming."
Casino gaming was the biggest surprise in the figures released for New Jersey's April haul. iGaming was responsible for an incredible $74.8 million, a 114% increase from April of 2019 when the handle was $34.9 million.
Poker brought in $5.1 million in to New Jersey sportsbooks in April, up an astounding 208.7% from last year at this time. Part of this was due to the lack of live poker available during the month and part has to be credited to the online casinos who put together quality poker tournaments in a hurry in order to seize on the opportunity presented them.
Overall in 2020
As an endorsement of how strong the New Jersey legal betting scene is, their overall 2020 handle has fallen just 8.6% despite the better part of two months being totally lost to COVID-19. With one-third of the year in the books, New Jersey has brought in $1.27 billion in bets which is more-than-respectable considering the times we are living in.
Revenues for 2020 has somehow climbed 2.3% to $86.4 million. It speaks to just how successful the legal sports betting industry was during the months of January and February of this year. During those months, New Jersey was able to bring in an astounding $1 billion in bets.
With sports and the world as a whole starting to show signs of life, the numbers are bound to get better soon for New Jersey. We've already seen the appetite for sports betting that exists with the NFL Draft attracting 5 times its regular bets and the action we have seen on the 3 UFC events this past week or so.
NASCAR has returned, golf is on its way, German soccer enjoyed a successful first weekend back and MLB is finalizing plans to return to action. New Jersey's sports betting platform is prepping to explode once again when everything returns back to normal.
It's an old adage that "only the strong survive" but it seems to ring true when talking about the New Jersey sports betting scene. Their prior strength carried them through the COVID-19 shutdown and their diverse and all-encompassing betting platform allowed them to actually thrive in previously underwhelming sectors.
Let New Jersey be a lesson to all prospective sports betting states – diversify, limit the regulation and the betting industry will drive itself!