In 10 years, when we look back, 2023 will be one for the New Jersey history books.
Forget the records. Actually, no. Let’s mention them. In a minute.
It’s beyond just the numbers. It’s the landmark moments that have occurred already. The steppingstones appearing to (maybe) be in place for change. All told, 2023 will prove to be a game-changing year in the history of New Jersey gambling.
Legal gambling in NJ growing as it reaches anniversaries
So, about those numbers.
Through November, online casinos in NJ generated $1.74 billion in revenue, already a single-year high-water mark for the industry. On top of that, NJ sports betting has produced $897.17 million in revenue, already surpassing the 2021 record with still a month to be reported.
This all comes as NJ online casinos celebrated 10 years of existence. A stretch of time that saw the Garden State shape the future of legal online gambling, not just in terms of revenue but also by how it’s regulated, a template that many states – whether it be for online casinos or sports betting – have since used.
Which begs the question: Despite the astounding success of online casinos in NJ, why did the state opt for a five-year extension (after briefly discussing only a two-year extension) rather than the assumed 10 years?
Don’t forget about NJ sports betting
It comes as sports betting in New Jersey celebrated its five-year anniversary, continuing to rank near the top of states with legal sports wagering and with the most tread on the tires.
New platforms continue to target the Garden State for launch, as seen by ESPN Bet NJ replacing Barstool Sportsbook (and Hollywood Online Casino NJ doing the same for Barstool Casino) in November. By Fanatics Sportsbook taking over for PointsBet. And Resorts World Bet, a fledgling operator, deciding to expand beyond its New York borders by reaching a partnership deal to offer NJ sports betting.
Truly, there seems to be no slowing down for New Jersey. Now it’s just a matter of how high industry, online casinos and sports betting, can each go.
(Plus, Atlantic City casinos, at $2.6 billion, are on pace to enjoy their best year since 2013.)
Cyberattacks sweep over Atlantic City casinos
The Las Vegas-based company swiftly indicated that it opened an investigation “with assistance from leading external cybersecurity experts,” although, fortunately, it appeared that neither online casino nor online sportsbook accounts were affected. Less than two weeks later, MGM announced that all of its systems returned to full functionality.
Still, Atlantic City casino guests sensed “something … off” as they returned to the floor, almost “creepy.”
When the dust began to settle, reports surfaced that the cyberattack could cost MGM upward of $100 million. On top of that, MGM and Caesars Entertainment – which also endured a ransomware attack over the summer – faced lawsuits stemming from the attacks, claiming the companies failed to protect consumer personal information.
Fight for smoke-free Atlantic City casinos wages on
Obviously, online casinos and sports betting in New Jersey will garner most of the attention. But one fight continues to endure – and will continue into 2024.
That battle: whether to ban smoking at Atlantic City casinos.
In 2023, it began with a letter in January to Gov. Phil Murphy, urging the passage of legislation to do just that. Murphy has supported such a move, saying a few months earlier: “You should assume that I will sign it.”
Throughout the year, lawmakers held joint sessions and hearings. But it seemed each attempt was met with the same argument: Doing away with smoking altogether (casinos can allow smoking on up to 25% of gaming floors) would hurt the bottom line for revenue.
An industry-funded study from Spectrum Gaming Group in 2022 projected that some 21% of Atlantic City casino players smoke. As a result, gross gaming revenue could dip at least 4% in the first year of a smoking ban, while non-gaming revenue would fall by at least 3%. Plus, the AC casino industry could lose as many as 2,500 jobs.
“The primary concern for New Jersey casinos,” Joe Lupo, former president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said, “is not that guests will stay at home, but that they will travel to another casino in Connecticut or Pennsylvania where smoking is permitted instead of coming to Atlantic City.”
Earlier this month, it appeared New Jersey was primed to pass a bill that would make Atlantic City casinos 100% smoke-free. Then, after delaying the vote, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Services Committee pulled the legislation from consideration, citing a lack of support.
It proved the pull still carried by Atlantic City casinos. Which begs another question: What would it take to actually make AC casinos smoke-free?