Many groundbreaking developments have taken place in 2020, not least of which is a dramatic shift to online gaming. Geopolitical events have fomented an uptick in online poker gaming across the Garden State. According to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) earnings reports, there has been sharply reduced GGR (Gross Gambling Revenue) from land-based casinos and poker rooms. This has been offset to a degree by steep increases in Internet gaming revenue from online casinos and online poker rooms. 

As a case in point, bricks and mortar casino gambling for the month of March 2019 amounted to $223.2 million, and just $85.5 million in March 2020. By contrast, online casinos generated $64.8 million in March 2020, compared to $39.8 million in March 2019. These year-on-year figures are evident, to a lesser degree, in online poker revenues too. For example, in March 2019, online poker rooms in New Jersey took in $1.9 million, and by March 2020 that figured almost doubled to $3.6 million.

The East Coast Gambling Mecca – New Jersey 

The ever-changing gaming landscape in New Jersey comprises a mix of bricks and mortar casino revenue, online casino revenue, online poker revenue, and sports betting revenue. Online poker GGR is listed as peer-to-peer revenue, which is separate from online casino GGR, for these verticals. In 2019, bricks and mortar casinos made up 77.5% of all gambling revenue in the state of New Jersey, at $3.47 billion. Online casino and online poker revenues weighed in with 13.9% of all gambling take at $482.7 million, while sports betting activity contributed 8.6%, at $299.4 million. 

Projections for 2020 are markedly different to 2019, and every year since online gambling was legalized in New Jersey back in 2013. Consider that land-based casinos in New Jersey are expected to reel in $0 for April 2020, and minimal revenue streams in the weeks and months that follow, it's going to be up to online casino and online poker rooms to carry the proverbial torch for the industry. According to the state of New Jersey, Casino Control Commission (CCC), the following Atlantic City casino hotels are licensed to operate gambling services for legal-age players:

•    Bally's Atlantic City
•    Caesars Atlantic City
•    Resorts Casino Hotel
•    Ocean Casino Resort
•    Tropicana Atlantic City
•    Hard Rock Atlantic City 
•    Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
•    Golden Nugget Atlantic City
•    Harrah's Resort Atlantic City

The Internet gaming affiliates that are licensed to operate in New Jersey include Caesars Interactive Entertainment New Jersey, LLC, an affiliate of Bally’s Park Place and Caesars Atlantic City, and Resorts Digital Gaming, LLC, an affiliate of DGMB Casino, LLC d/b/a Resorts Casino Hotel. The hullabaloo created by shutdown left thousands of workers stranded, and the gaming industry has been relegated to the online arena for the short-to-medium term. Nonetheless, the New Jersey Internet gaming market continues to amaze pundits with robust growth figures in online gaming. An industry which has often been deemed a fringe market by the mainstream industry is now leading the way as the go-to selection for players.

Source: NJ DGE Tropicana Casino & Resort Monthly Internet Gross Revenue Report 

Up until 2020, online poker has been labelled a ‘laggard’ in terms of its steadily declining market share over the years. That all changed when the game went strongly virtual in New Jersey this year. Online gaming has proven to be a robust, dynamic, and lucrative honeypot for the state of New Jersey, what with phenomenal growth in online casino, and online sports betting being supplemented by positive growth in online poker this year. The March 2020 figures released by the DGE confirm what everyone has suspected – online poker has performed superbly well in March 2020, and figures for April and May 2020 are expected to be equally positive. The growth in online poker is partly born out of necessity (players only have the online poker arena), and partly a result of an action-packed tournament calendar for players.

Official figures for March 2020 online poker revenues indicate that online poker take was recorded at $3,629,112, significantly higher than February 2020 online poker revenues which were $1,796,804. Month on month, that translates into a 102% increase, but year-on-year, the increase is 90.6%. Given that the online poker win in March 2019 was $1,903,790, the change is significant. These numbers highlight just how popular online poker has become heading into the second half of 2020. While retail casino operators are down 61% month on month for March 2020, and retail sports betting is down 110% month-on-month for March 2020, the online gaming arena is tremendously strong.


   Source: NJ DGE Ocean City Casino Resort and Resorts Digital Gaming LLC Revenue Report


Comparative statics allow for a much more balanced perspective of the situation. In March 2019, online casinos in New Jersey generated an overall win of $37,203,590. Fast forward to March 2020, online casinos generated a win of $61,192,791. The month-on-month increase was equally impressive, up $11 million from February 2020, for a growth rate of approximately 21.9%. While online casino win contributes the bulk of total Internet win, online poker has played an important part in 2020. In the breakdown of the numbers, casino win includes slot machine win + table game win. Peer-to-Peer games represent poker win. In March 2019, peer-to-peer games took in $1,903,790, and in March 2020, online peer-to-peer games took in $3,629,112 in New Jersey. For the year-to-date through March 2020, the following figures have been reported by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE):
Source: NJ DGE Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Caesars Interactive Entertainment Revenue Report 

•    Slot Machine Win – $355,019,324
•    Table Game Win – $140,627,004
•    Casino Win – $495,646,328
•    Peer-to-Peer Win – $7,258,127
•    Other Authorized Games – $164,638,134
•    Internet Gaming Win – $171,896,261
•    Sports Betting Revenue – $83,743,655
•    Total Gaming Revenue – $751,286,244

In terms of percentages, online poker remains low on the totem pole, but recent trends are encouraging. It makes up the following percentages:

•    Online Poker comprises $3,629,112 of $61,192,791 of total Internet Gaming Win = 5.9% for March 2020.
•    Online Poker comprises $7,258,127 of $171,896,261 of total Internet Gaming Win = 4.2% for the year-to-date.


Source:  NJ DGE Golden Nugget Atlantic City and Hard Rock Atlantic City Gross Revenue Report 

As expected, New Jersey sports betting has plummeted, while online casino and online poker have steadied the proverbial ship. Industry aficionados continue to assess the situation, to determine whether the current spike in casino and poker online is pyrrhic in nature, or part of a longer-term uptrend. That March 2020 has been the most successful month for online poker in New Jersey is notable on many levels. The last time New Jersey online poker revenues came close to the current figure was back in 2014 January, when $3.4 million in revenue was generated. Pundits are expecting even better online poker revenue numbers to roll out for April 2020, and May 2020, once all the figures have been correlated, finalized, and released.

Moving forward, land-based casinos and their poker rooms will feature limited capacity. This bodes well for online poker which will benefit from low player numbers at land-based venues. Of all the social games (peer-to-peer) that are available, poker is least likely to function optimally when player numbers are artificially kept low by casino managers, regulatory authorities, and CDC guidelines. From a holistic perspective, 2020 is going to be the year that online poker really took charge in New Jersey.

About the Author

With digital marketing strategies in his blood, Louis Wheeler has traveled around the world, exploring gambling cultures and gaining experience in casino games from 2003. If you are in a casino anywhere around the planet, you may find him right next to you, playing blackjack, roulette or texas hold'em. 

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