After COVID-19 protocols led to a casino shutdown in Atlantic City, casinos are still relying on online sportsbooks to boost their handle and revenue numbers to historic levels.

  • After COVID-19 lockdowns led to New Jersey casinos leaning into online sports betting, the state is seeing an increase in sports betting handle and hold percentage.
  • While online sports betting is seeing historic increases, casinos are struggling to return to their pre-COVID handle and revenue levels.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – New Jersey is enjoying one of its strongest years ever from a gaming handle and revenue perspective; however, Atlantic City’s casinos are still trying to dig themselves out of the hole that COVID-19 restrictions created.

Atlantic City Casinos Still Hurting From COVID Lockdowns

In 2020, Atlantic City’s casinos were subject to a 107-day shutdown. As a result, many of these casinos shifted their legal sports betting focus to online gambling, a trend that remained even after the COVID-19 protocols were lightened.

Joe Lupo, president of both the Casino Association of New Jersey and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, says that casinos are still seeing decreased in-person revenue to pair with the increase in online gambling revenue.

“The pandemic continues to have an adverse effect on our business, with land-based casino win down 5.5% for the year through November,” he said. Seven of Atlantic City’s nine casinos saw a decrease in hold percentage compared to 2019.

While the decrease in hold percentage is certainly not a good thing for New Jersey’s casinos, Lupo still sees a silver lining, saying: “…and while online gaming revenue continues to see significant growth with third-party operators acquiring much of that market-share, it has provided another taxable revenue source to the city and state.”

Online Gambling Leading To Gaudy Numbers

In September, well after the original COVID lockdowns of 2020, New Jersey became the first state to surpass $1 billion in sports betting handle.

The eye-popping handle numbers have been attributed by many to the increase in access to online sports betting in New Jersey. While this has led to huge handle and revenue numbers, it may also hurt Atlantic City’s tourism industry in general, according to Tony Marino, author of a newsletter documenting Atlantic City’s tourism industry.

“But the irony is that online gaming threatens in-person activity by suppressing overall visitor volume to the resort which, in turn, negatively affects brick-and-mortar gaming, city and casino restaurants, retail establishments and entertainment venues,” Marino said. “The challenge in 2022 is for the industry to maintain national leadership in digital gaming while marketing Atlantic City as a resort with multiple world-class attractions worthy of in-person visits.”

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