The Golden Touch: How AC’s Smallest Property Is King Of NJ Online Gambling

Written By Bill Gelman on May 24, 2019

Golden Nugget is well aware that it’s the smallest of the nine Atlantic City casinos.

But while the golden one may not measure up in the size department (a tad over 74,000 square feet of gaming space and 728 total rooms), it’s performing just fine in the overall Atlantic City revenue picture.

And much of the success comes as a result of being the NJ online casino revenue market leader.

And it’s been happening month after month after month.

In the most recent numbers released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the Marina District property reported $13,854,527 in online revenue for April. That’s a 70.3% increase from the same period last year.

But how is Golden Nugget maintaining such a large chunk of the market?

Play NJ caught up with Thomas Winter, senior vice president and general manager of online gaming at Golden Nugget, to dive deeper into the numbers and the AC casino’s success rate.

How does Golden Nugget do it?

Simply put, Winter said there is “no magic recipe.” But the “addition of multiple factors” are in play.

“As far as is concerned, we have been solely focused on the New Jersey market from day one. We also took calculated risks, such as switching to a new technology after two years or building a live dealer studio to introduce this popular category three years ago.”

And of course, there is a focus on product “exemplified by the best and largest selection of games.” The current total of real money casino games stands at more than 600, including 500 on its mobile casino app.

Add in consistent investments in marketing and a “great, local customer service team,” and all the pieces to the consistency puzzle fit perfectly into place.

“I think we managed to show consistency across our brand, marketing message, product and user experience, allowing us to attract and retain the most demanding online casino patrons.

“Golden Nugget online casino revenues also reflect the performance of our partners Betfair, SugarHouse, and now BetAmerica. They are all seasoned and smart operators, who have also taken the New Jersey market very seriously.”

Golden Nugget + monthly records

Those following the NJ online gambling numbers are well aware that Golden Nugget is setting records on a regular basis. And this includes two new all-time highs in 2019 alone:

  • The all-time high of $14,227,820 was set in March.
  • The previous record of $12,180,039 came in January (often considered a dead month at AC casinos).
  • And let’s not ignore the fact that April’s revenue is the second best in history.

Play NJ: Just last month, your year-over-year online casino revenue increased by more than 70%. What is different this year versus last year?

Winter: All our brands have been performing well, consistently out-growing competition.

Golden Nugget was already the first operator to reach $8 million in monthly revenue in July 2018. It’s now over $14 million.

The legalization of sports betting has boosted revenues of casino operators by attracting new players, but the growth we’ve been lately experiencing is a continuation of an older trend.

In the first quarter of 2019, our revenues grew 55% compared to the same period last year. In [the first quarter of] 2018, [year-over-year] growth was already 47%.

What’s new is the accelerated growth of the whole market. While last year’s first quarter average revenue growth was 10% of other licensees, it jumped to 54% last quarter, most of it coming from the addition of new operators and cross-sell from sports betting.

golden nugget online revenue nj gambling

Golden Nugget hanging out with heavyweights

In the land-based casino world, Golden Nugget is living up to that underdog persona.

Harrah’s Atlantic City, located within walking distance, does really well (160,000 square feet of gaming space and 2,588 rooms). But in the online world, things are measured differently.

Play NJ: How are you able to build an online casino portfolio that can hold its own against bigger names like Borgata and Caesars?

Winter: The beauty of online gaming is that it allows all operators to compete on a level playing field.

A brick-and-mortar casino has to deal with constraints like location or size. The number of rooms you offer or the size of your casino floor directly impacts the number of guests, players, and eventually, your revenues.

Golden Nugget Atlantic City has been doing well, with an 8% market share in land-based revenues, well above its share of rooms or square footage (around 6%), thanks to a great team and a boutique approach that has built strong players loyalty. Still, when you are the smallest casino in town, your growth is somewhat capped.

Online, you don’t have any of these constraints. You can add as many games as you want, for instance.

The largest and most established land-based operators still have a head start, mostly due to brand awareness, trust, and players database. But over time, marketing, product, and operational excellence will matter more.

As an example, more than 80% of our online players were new to the brand, and mobile players are 15 years younger than brick-and-mortar patrons.

The first live dealer studio in the US

Arrive at the Golden Nugget via the self-parking garage, and it’s hard to miss the live dealer studio. Besides being the first in the country to have, it was New Jersey’s one and only for two years.

Play NJ: How crucial is the live dealer component to the success of an online casino app?

Winter: It certainly helped us to stand out in a very competitive market, where it’s hard to achieve differentiation.

It was also consistent with what the Golden Nugget brand stands for (inclusivity, innovation, and authenticity) and with our commitment to cater to traditional casino players.

The addition of another studio in New Jersey hasn’t impacted us negatively. Actually, our live dealer revenues have never been so high, same for other brands using our studio. This is because we kept innovating. For example, there is unlimited blackjack where all players are dealt the same hand, roulette streamed from the casino floor 24/7 and so on.

More generally speaking, we believe that live dealer games are a game category in itself, the same way slots or electronic table games are, and that category should keep driving online casino growth for years to come.

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Golden Nugget and NJ online sports betting

DraftKings and FanDuel are dominating NJ online sports betting, but they also got a several-month head start over Golden Nugget and others.

The Golden Nugget sportsbook, powered by SBTech, didn’t launch until Feb. 19. And it’s integrated with the popular Golden Nugget casino app.

Play NJ: How is the Golden Nugget app doing since adding sports betting?

Winter: We launched sports betting in February, and early feedback we received from players has been good. We’ll keep improving and localizing our sportsbook in the coming months, with some exciting innovations to be introduced.

In March, our mobile casino had its best month ever, in players and revenues alike.

How to maintain Golden Nugget’s success

Of course, it’s no secret both the NJ online casino and sports betting industries will continue expanding. The recent addition of BorgataSports makes it 14 NJ online sportsbooks.

Online casinos in NJ sit at more than 20 and counting with Unibet Casino waiting in the wings to launch sometime this year.

In the latter category, Golden Nugget is the one everyone else chasing.

Play NJ: What are the things the Golden Nugget needs to do to maintain its top position in the market?

Winter: Indeed, we think that the NJ online casino market will more than double in the next five years to reach $500 (million) to $600 million, while sports betting could add another $400 (million) to $450 million.

If we manage to stay the destination of choice for authentic casino players, through innovation and great service to patrons, we should be able to keep growing at a steady pace.

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Bill Gelman

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and now NJ sports betting and online gambling.

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