Casinos' online win still growing despite return of gamblers

A year ago, Atlantic City's casinos were closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, and internet gambling was the only game in town for slots or table games players.

But a year later, even as gamblers continue to return to in-person casinos, the amount of money the gambling halls won online continues to grow.

Figures released Wednesday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement show internet gambling brought in more than $108 million in May, an increase of nearly 26% from last May during the pandemic-related shutdown.

Jane Bokunewicz, director of a gambling and tourism institute at Stockton University, expects in-person gambling revenue to increase over the summer.

"Headed into the peak summer months, we should expect to see brick and mortar casino gaming continue to reclaim revenue share from online gambling as patrons flock to Atlantic City’s beaches and iconic boardwalk," she said. "It will be interesting to see how these two revenue streams balance each other long-term as the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic wanes."

All told, the casinos won over $374 million in May, an increase of more than 290%.

Because of the 3 1/2-month shutdown last year, many Atlantic City casino executives are comparing their current performance to the corresponding year in 2019, before the pandemic took hold.

And those comparisons are looking good, too. James Plousis, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, noted that the casinos' revenue was up more than 26% over May 2019.

"The market's momentum is pointing toward a great summer," he said.

The Ocean casino had the biggest jump from last May, up over 1,700%. The casino had the best month for slot machine revenue in its history, at nearly $19.5 million.

All told, Ocean won over $27 million in May, up from nearly $1.5 million last May.

"The changes we’re making are working" said Terry Glebocki, Ocean's CEO. She cited a redesign of the casino floor with new pathways, the addition of nearly 250 new slot machines, and the debut of new high-limit gambling areas.

The Borgata won the most, as usual, in May, taking in $85.3 million. Hard Rock was second at $41.6 million.

Tropicana won $26.4 million; Caesars won $23.1 million; Harrah's won $21.5 million; Resorts won $14.9 million; Golden Nugget won $13.2 million, and Bally's won $12.6 million.

Among internet-only entities, Resorts Digital and Golden Nugget Online Gaming each won over $31 million, and Caesars Interactive NJ won $9.1 million.

In many cases, comparisons with last May's revenue figures were meaningless due to the shutdown.

More than $814 million was wagered on sports in New Jersey in May, exceeding the $800 million mark for the sixth time since legal sports betting began in 2018.