NJ Online Casinos End 2019 On A High Note; Leaves Some Questions For 2020 To Answer

Posted on January 15, 2020

The Division of Gaming Enforcement released December’s online casino gambling figures on Tuesday.

It probably isn’t a surprise that the report contained more good news for New Jersey online casinos.

Last month, we speculated about the possibility of online casinos reaching the revenue milestone of $50 million in December.

Well, the industry fell a bit short of that mark, but it still set a new record.

Total online gambling revenue (casino games and poker) came in at $49.3 million, a 0.39% increase over November and over 70% when compared with December 2018.

Online casino games slid back a bit, with $47.6 million in revenue. That is slightly down from last month but is still sporting a hefty increase of 74.7% for the same period the previous year.

Poker made up for online casinos for a change by earning $1.7 million. That accounts for an over 16% increase from November. However, poker remains in negative territory for year-over-year growth.

December 2019 NJ online casino highlights

  • New Jersey’s total online casino revenue record is the ninth record-setting month of 2019.
  • Online poker sees its first month-over-month growth in five months.
  • Borgata had the largest month-over-month increase (12.3%), while Ocean Casino Resort had the biggest decline (-81.3%).
  • Golden Nugget remains in on top of the leaderboard but lost about 3% of its market share in December to Borgata and Resorts.

Here’s a look at the numbers:

Revenue / ∆ Month Over Month / ∆ Year Over Year:

  • Online casinos: $47.6 million / -0.1% / 74.7%
  • Online poker: $1.7 million / 16.2% / -1.7%
  • Total: $49.3 million / 0.4% / 70.1%
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New Jersey’s online casino winners and losers

Three online casinos posted record revenue this month:

Surprisingly, Golden Nugget is not on an online casino records list, but it was off its high from last month by 8.6%. It is its second-biggest decline of the year.

Resorts and Borgata set records again in December and gained some market share from Golden Nugget. In fact, Resorts beat its previous record by nearly $1 million, thanks to DraftKings Casino operating under its license. Surely the powers that be at Golden Nugget are paying close attention and may even be a little nervous.

Live dealer games were once what set Golden Nugget apart, but now most online casinos offer them, including Borgata and DraftKings.

One is left to wonder, is 2020 the year when the competition catches up to Golden Nugget?

There are two other notable things from the above list: The first being Tropicana Casino‘s entry into record revenue territory and the second is the absence of Ocean Casino Resort.

Tropicana’s nearly 11% month-over-month increase is its second-highest month-over-month increase of the year.

Tropicana has been hanging out in the $3 million’s since the fall of 2017. December’s revenue of $4.06 million is only the third time it went above $4 million.

The first time was in May 2017; the second was in August 2019. With two $4 million months in the last half of 2019, will we see Tropicana set a new revenue floor in 2020?

Ocean Casino Resort, on the other hand, came into December with three straight record-setting months. It’s measly $102,637 in revenue is a new low for Ocean — and any online casino, except those whose first month was not a full month of operation.

Ocean Casino has new leadership and a marketing strategy to get new customers. Maybe this is Ocean’s rock bottom. The question remains, will Ocean be able to pull itself up?

Besides Golden Nugget and Ocean Casino, Caesars is the only other online casino to post a month over month decline (-2.89%). It is running a distant fourth in the market.

We are watching how the Eldorado-Caesars merger will impact AC casinos. The merger is expected to be finalized this year. Will the merger help Caesars gain some ground?

Here is how each operator fared in December:

OperatorPoker RevenueCasino RevenueTotal Gaming WinTaxes Paid
Borgata / Party / BetMGM$454,962$8,776,643$9,231,605$1,390,954
Caesars / Harrah's / 888$709,427$3,758,401$4,467,828$670,606
Golden Nugget / Betfair / BetAmerica / SugarHouse$-$17,292,907$17,292,907$2,595,248
Hard Rock / Unibet / Bet365$- $2,218,352$2,218,352$332,753
Ocean Casino / Parx Casino$- $102,637$102,637$15,419
Resorts AC / DraftKings / PokerStars$570,425$11,378,070$11,948,495$1,792,274
Tropicana / Virgin$- $4,066,133$4,066,133$609,920
Totals$1,734,814$47,593,143$49,327,957$7,407,174

New Jersey online poker for the win

New Jersey online poker rooms pulled in $1.7 million in December. It is its biggest month since July 2019 when poker players on the East Coast came to New Jersey to compete for one of several WSOP.com gold bracelets.

It has been five months since online poker has seen a month-over-month increase. Additionally, it hasn’t seen double-digit growth since July 2017.

All of that is surprising for one big reason: The launch of online poker in Pennsylvania. PokerStars PA ran its first PACOOP during the first few weeks of December.

It seemed inevitable all NJ online poker rooms would take a hit as players crossed the border for tournaments with hefty guarantees. Instead, all poker rooms showed increases when compared with November.

We’ve been talking at length for some time that in order for NJ online poker to survive, it needed a big state like Pennsylvania to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement. While PA online poker has launched, it will take quite a while before it enters the compact.

Maybe all online poker needed was more competition in the region. There is no doubt that poker in PA has brought fresh blood to the game, and it looks like some is spilling into the Garden State.

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Atlantic City casinos make the news

The growth of Atlantic City casinos made The Washington Post on Tuesday, shortly after the numbers were released.

The industry ended the year with more than $3.2 billion in earnings, suitable for a 15% increase over 2018. It was since 2012 when casinos brought in more than $3 billion.

In the article, David Schwartz, a gambling analyst and historian with the University of Nevada Las Vegas, talked about the increase and what AC casinos need to stay on a positive trajectory:

“Overall, what Atlantic City needs right now is to improve its image and marketing and become a destination in a crowded Northeast casino market.”

Borgata remains on top finishing the year with $797.8 million, a 3.5% increase over 2018. Golden Nugget came in at a distant second with $378.4 million, 15.4% higher than its earnings in the prior year.

As online casinos grow, however, some retail partners are suffering. Five of the nine casinos saw a decline in 2019 revenue when compared with 2018:

  • Tropicana ($349.5 million, down 8.2%)
  • Harrah’s ($312.6 million, down 6.1%)
  • Bally’s ($181.5 million, down 5.4%)
  • Caesars ($270.9 million, down 3.7%)
  • Resorts ($178.4 million, down 3.2%)

Hard Rock Atlantic City ended 2019 with the third-highest earnings of $350 million. It, along with Ocean Casino ($238 million) don’t have year-over-year comparisons.

What the December NJ online casino revenue report tells us

Overall, December’s revenue report ends the year on a high note. More records, more income and even online poker had some positive news.

What this month’s report tells us is that New Jersey gambling is not done growing just yet.

However, it does leave a lot of questions for 2020 to answer. For instance, will:

  • Regional online poker competition continue to help the market?
  • Resorts continue to close the gap between itself and Golden Nugget?
  • The Eldorado-Caesars merger help propel Caesars up the leaderboard?
  • Online casino gambling continue to impact retail revenue?

So, we ended the year celebrating another new online casino record and the return of players to the Boardwalk. It only matters, though, if the momentum carries through to the new year.

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Kim Yuhl

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while exploring the world.

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