Sports and online bets help fuel Atlantic City's rebound
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Atlantic City's casinos won almost $3.3 billion from gamblers in 2019, helped by surging sports and internet bets as the seaside resort continued to rebound from a mid-decade meltdown that saw five casinos close.
Figures released Tuesday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show the nine casinos collectively won $3.29 billion in 2019, an increase of over 15% from 2018.
When an additional $300 million in sports betting revenue is added to the equation, the casinos and two racetracks that offer sports betting won $3.46 billion last year, a figure that does not include money from horse racing bets.
It marked the first year since 2012 that Atlantic City's casinos had won more than $3 billion from gamblers.
That was right before a brutal stretch from 2014 to 2016 that saw five of the then-12 casinos shut down, and more than 11,000 jobs lost.
The reopening in 2018 of the former Trump Taj Mahal as Hard Rock, and the former Revel as the Ocean Casino Resort has brought added revenue and jobs to the market.
But those same two new casinos also are diluting the profitability of the seven casinos that were in business before they reopened. For the first three quarters of 2019, the nine casinos reported a cumulative gross operating profit of $484 million, down 4.5% from the same period in 2018.
"The revenue increase is a positive," said David Schwartz, a gambling historian with the University of Nevada Las Vegas. "Right now the industry should be in 'grow-the-market' mode rather than seeking to consolidate profits, so a decrease in profits isn't necessarily the worst news we could get. Overall, what Atlantic City needs right now is to improve its image and marketing and become a destination in a crowded Northeast casino market."
Rummy Pandit, a gambling analyst with Stockton University, said Atlantic City has successfully diversified its gambling offerings. Those two products, developed since November 2013, now account for more than 18% of Atlantic City's winnings, he said.
The news was not all positive. Five of the nine casinos won less money in 2019 than they did in 2018. Tropicana was down 8.2% to $349.5 million; Harrah's was down 6.1% to $312.6 million; Bally's was down 5.4% to $181.5 million; Caesars was down 3.7% to $270.9 million; and Resorts was down 3.2% to $178.4 million.
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The Golden Nugget was up 15.4% to $378.4 million. It finished the year as the No. 2 casino in Atlantic City in terms of revenue. The perennial leader, Borgata, was up 3.5% to $797.8 million.
There was no year-to-year comparison for the newest casinos, which had not been open for a full year in 2018. For 2019, Hard Rock won $350 million, and Ocean won $238 million.
New Jersey had a banner year at sports betting, with nearly $4.6 billion wagered on pro and college games.
The state won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in 2018 clearing the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting should they so choose. Since the first bets were taken in New Jersey in June 2018, more than $5.8 billion has been wagered on sports, putting the state right behind Nevada in the race to lead the burgeoning market.
The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, just outside New York City, was the runaway leader in sports betting revenue with just under $150 million. It is partnered with the FanDuel sports book. The other racetrack to offer sports betting, Monmouth Park in Oceanport, won nearly $26 million in sports bets. Resorts Digital, which is affiliated with the DraftKings online sports book, won nearly $80 million on sports.
Internet gambling also continued to be a bright spot in 2019, with $482 million won online from gamblers, an increase of more than 61% over 2018. In the month of December, nearly $558 million was wagered on sports in New Jersey, the second-best month ever, trailing only November's total of nearly $563 million.