The year 2018 was a year of progress for the New Jersey gambling industry.
· The state’s long, winding road to legal sports betting became a reality following the US Supreme Court ruling that struck down PASPA, paving the way for New Jersey’s June retail launch and August online launch.
· Online gambling continued to reach new heights, with revenue records being shattered throughout the course of the year.
· Two of Atlantic City’s shuttered casinos reopened their doors in June.
In 2019, the impact of NJ sports betting and the two new casino properties, as well as how they intersect with online gambling and the tourism industry in Atlantic City, should start to come into focus.
And hopefully, the following questions will be answered.
Will sports betting drive Atlantic City visitation?
Thus far, sports betting has provided a nice revenue boost for Atlantic City casinos and the state’s racetracks. What’s still unclear is if sports betting can increase Atlantic City’s destination appeal, or is it simply just an outlet for local gamblers.
That question should be answered in the coming months.
There will be plenty of Super Bowl betting action in February and March Madness a month later, the hope is those two marquee events and the ability to place a bet on them in New Jersey will cause an offseason visitation spike for the city.
If it does, NJ sports betting could be a boon for Atlantic City casinos far beyond the revenue generated from sports wagers.
If sports betting increases the attractiveness of Atlantic City as a vacation/destination, it effectively provides the city with a few weeks of summer-type visitation during the winter months.
Will neighboring states take a nibble or a chunk out of NJ sports betting revenue?
Another question that will be answered in 2019 has to do with competition from neighboring states.
Specifically, what impact will:
- Pennsylvania’s burgeoning sports betting industry have as it continues to grow, including the addition of mobile wagering?
- The legalization of sports betting in New York have on the Garden State?
Right now, New Jersey is enjoying a first-mover (in the region) advantage. That’s allowing New Jersey to pull a lot of retail and online customers from New York and Pennsylvania.
However, the period of plenty is already in jeopardy of ending. Retail sportsbooks are starting to appear in Pennsylvania, and the state continues to move toward an online sports betting launch. And of course, it too will come to an abrupt end if New York legalizes online sports betting.
New Jersey casinos know all too well that monopolies make things much easier.
When competition begins to appear in other states, things get a little dicier, and factors such as convenience, value, and experience dictate where customers spend their money.
Has the number of land-based casinos outgrown the market (again)?
Following a period of contraction that saw five of the city’s 12 casinos close their doors, the Atlantic City casino market is now in a period of expansion.
Not one, but two of the shuttered casinos were reintroduced (with new names and new owners) to the Boardwalk in 2018, which has rekindled saturation concerns.
The impact of Hard Rock Atlantic City (the former Trump Taj Mahal) and Ocean Resort Casino (the former Revel) on their competitors and the market as a whole will be one of the most closely followed stories of 2019.
There are plenty of people lined up to fire off an, “I told you so” should one of the properties fail, or cause an existing property to go under.
Only time will tell if the city can support six, seven, eight or nine casinos.
Can NJ online gambling continue to grow at its current pace?
NJ online gambling revenue has been on an upward trajectory throughout its five-plus-year existence, but it wasn’t until 2016 that it really started to hit its stride.
As seen in the chart below, since 2016, year-over-year gains of 20 percent or more have been the norm.
The chart also shows a 10-month stretch from December 2017 to August where growth was less than 20 percent (but above 10 percent) nine times.
The downtrend has been lost in the shuffle, as revenue has risen by more than 25 percent in four of the last five months. That rebound happens to coincide with the launch of sports betting in the state.
That raises our final question: Will sports betting continue to bolster NJ online casino revenue through cross-selling?
Or is this a temporary blip that will eventually peter out, with online casino revenue gains once again shrinking as the market hurtles toward maturity?