Casinos, racetracks, and their partners posted $4.74 billion in total gaming revenue during 2021, compared to $2.88 billion the prior year, an increase of 64.4%. The figures were shared by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which further reported venues posted $404.1 million in revenue in December, up from $312.9 million in December 2020, a 29.1% increase.
Casino win for December was $211.8 million compared to $147.1 million the prior year, while Internet gaming win was $133.2 million, up 33.9% from $99.5 million in 2020. Meanwhile, sports wagering gross revenue for the month was $59.0 million.
Internet gaming win for the year increased 40.9% to 1.37 billion from the prior year, while sports wagering gross revenue was $815.8 million. Casinos won a total of $2.55 billion, although the state’s regulator warns the figure is not directly comparable to 2020, a period in which casinos in Atlantic City remained closed for months amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the $4.74 billion posted in casino gambling, sports betting and online wagering in 2021 shows a healthy picture for Atlantic City’s industry, considerably up from 2020 and signaling towards recovery, in-person gambling still did worse than before the coronavirus pandemic.
“These results are a remarkable achievement for Atlantic City in light of the lingering pandemic,” said James Plousis, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, according to the Associated Press. However, executives warn the $2.55 billion won from gamblers on their premises is down from in-person gambling in 2019, which was at $2.68 billion.
“Atlantic City’s casino industry, like the region’s gaming hospitality and tourism businesses overall, has proven resilient, but still vulnerable to fluctuations in COVID-19 infection rates and caseloads,” added Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at Stockton University, which studies the Atlantic City gambling industry.
“Even as other sectors of the gaming business, internet gaming especially, show significant and steady revenue growth, coronavirus surges and waves like the Delta and Omicron variants continue to prove an obstacle to sustained recovery for Atlantic City’s brick-and-mortar casino operations,” she added, as quoted by AP.
While brick-and-mortar venues still struggle amid the pandemic, New Jersey’s sports betting market -the most profitable in the nation- proved how robust it was last year, shattering its own record for handle.
The state took in nearly $1.23 billion in sports wagers in December, the fourth straight month it surpassed the $1 billion mark. And for the year, casinos and horse tracks accepting sports bets took in about $11 billion worth of wagers.
The $10.93 billion in annual handle easily surpassed the $6 billion in bets the prior year, marking a new nationwide record. Betting, especially throughout the last months of the year, was bolstered by both NFL and college football.
The market provided nearly $816 million after winning bets and other expenses were paid, a 7.4% hold, larger than the industry average. Experts point out New Jersey is profiting from its status as a first-mover in the sports betting space, which can be seen, for instance, in bettors having 22 mobile sportsbooks from which to choose, more than any other state in the US.
It is worth noting that New Jersey was aided in reaching said record-highs in sports betting by New York failing to launch its market in 2021. As mobile sportsbooks in NY have now gone live, experts believe it could surpass New Jersey as the country’s top state for sports wagering.
Breaking down gambling revenue by casino, including all forms of gambling revenue, finds the Borgata as Atlantic City’s top-performing venue once again. The gambling facility won $1.1 billion from gamblers in 2021, twice as much as Hard Rock, its nearest competitor, which posted $511 million.
The top five is completed by Tropicana in third place, with $355 million, followed by the Ocean casino, at $342 million. Harrah’s posted $267 million in gambling revenue, placing fifth. It was followed, outside of the top five, by Caesars at $242 million, Resorts at $168 million, Golden Nugget at $148 million, and Bally’s at $144 million.
The Casino Association of New Jersey, a trade association representing Atlantic City’s nine casinos, called 2021 “a year of modest growth” for the state’s industry amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The resort destination continued to feel the impact of the pandemic, but industry leaders are optimistic 2022 will bring continued growth.
"Throughout 2021, the Atlantic City casino industry and its many great employees worked diligently to rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Joe Lupo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey. “While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our industry in the New Year, our outlook remains cautiously optimistic for the upcoming year, as we saw increases from 2020 to 2021, and we anticipate the same for 2022."
The CANJ describes the 5% decline in revenue for the land-based industry in 2021, when compared to 2019, as underscoring the fact that brick-and-mortar casinos “have not recovered to pre-Covid levels.”
Despite the pandemic, the industry still generated nearly $422 million in total state tax revenue from gaming operations in the year. According to the trade association, this reinforces “the vital role” the industry plays across the state.
The CANJ also remarked on the positive increases in online revenue posted through the year, although it warns it was primarily third-party affiliated companies that generated those wagers “as opposed to operators of Atlantic City’s land-based casinos.”
“The casino industry continues to diversify Atlantic City's offerings, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in redevelopment projects and amenities,” the association concluded its statement. “These new investments will create world-class attractions, generate additional employment opportunities and attract more visitors to the beachfront resort in the upcoming year.”