March Madness generated a surge of activity for New Jersey sportsbooks last month, leading to the largest retail handle in more than two years, but falling significantly short of the first $1bn wagering month in US sports betting history.
That milestone will, perhaps, be delayed at least until football season, according to PlayNJ, which analyzes and researches the state’s regulated online gaming and sports betting market.
New Jersey’s online casino gaming, however, continued shatter records in March, setting a fresh high with more than $113m in revenue.
PlayNJ lead analyst Dustin Gouker noted: “March represents a much-needed bounce back after a somewhat disappointing February. It will probably be until football season before the state gets that first $1bn month, but New Jersey’s online market has made a habit of outperforming expectations.
“Longer term, though, New Jersey’s market faces serious challenges, most notably New York’s expected launch of online sports betting later this year.”
New Jersey’s sportsbooks accepted $859.6m in wagers in March, the state’s highest monthly handle in a month without football, and a sharp difference from the $181.9m handle in March 2020, a month marred by pandemic-related shutdowns. It is also up 15.7% from the $743m handle in February.
Including March’s handle, New Jersey has posted the eight highest-volume months in US sports betting history.
March’s wagers produced $60.8m in revenue, up 360.9% from $13.2m in March 2020, and ahead by 31.5% from $46.2m February. March’s win resulted in $7.7m in taxes for the state.
The leap forward in March was expected with the return of the NCAA Tournament, which was immensely popular in 2019 in New Jersey but was canceled in 2020. To that end, basketball accounted for $441.7m of the state’s handle in March, up from $320.3m in January and $325.8m in February. With 51.4%, basketball accounted for the largest share of March’s handle of any sport by far.
Retail sportsbooks also saw increased action, generating $79.5m in bets, the highest volume for retail books since January 2019. Meadowlands/FanDuel led all retail books with $2.8m in revenue.
“The popularity of college basketball is what led to the resurgence of retail sportsbooks, good news for a segment that hasn’t seen much over the last year,” said Eric Ramsey, analyst for PlayNJ.com. “If New Jersey allowed betting on in-state college teams, the run by Rutgers could have given them an additional boost. Regardless, it was an excellent month for sportsbooks.”
Online betting accounted for 90.8%, or $780.1m, of the state’s total handle in March. FanDuel Sportsbook/PointsBet topped the online market with $28.5m in gross revenue, up from $24.9m in February.
“New York’s decision to create a closed market was good news for operators who are heavily vested in New Jersey,” Gouker said. “By closing the market, the select few operators that will operate in New York will have to focus on profitability just to meet the state’s high revenue split. That will leave a window open for some operators to offer more competitive products and promote more aggressively than any operator in New York.”
For all the attention paid to New Jersey’s sportsbooks, online casinos and poker remain the biggest winner in the state. Online casino games and poker generated a US record $113.7m in revenue, up 75.4% from $64.8m in March 2020, which was the first month of a year-long expansion. March’s revenue topped the previous record of $103.8m set in January.
Online casinos and poker generated a record $3.7m per day over the 31 days in March, up from $3.4m per day over 28 days in February. The result for the state was $17.1m in taxes.
Revenue from online casinos was $111m, up from $61.2m in March 2020. Online poker produced $2.7m, down from $3.6m in March 2020.
For the first time in years Golden Nugget saw its crown slip in March. Borgata generated a market record $36.2m in revenue on online casino games and poker, up from $25.7m in February. Golden Nugget generated $31.8m in March revenue, up from $27.9m in February.
“Borgata’s increasing focus on and success in the online market shows how the pandemic changed the dynamic for online casinos,” Ramsey said. “Even when we get past this pandemic, I don’t think gamblers will log into online casinos any less. Instead, this year-long surge points to a long-lasting market shift.