As we mark the one-year anniversary of the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey this month, it’s important to recognize the significant impact it has had on the Garden State, particularly in Atlantic City and Atlantic County. The passage of sports wagering helped create new jobs, generate economic growth and provide a major boost to the Atlantic City casino industry.
We knew that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision would be consequential for the state of New Jersey, but in its first year, sports wagering has exceeded all our expectations. From increased revenue and tax dollars to increased tourism, sports betting has injected a newfound fervor and excitement to the Atlantic City resort destination that has not been felt in recent memory.
Focused on creating a world-class experience for visitors and guests, Atlantic City casinos have invested millions of dollars into building sportsbooks. Patrons are responding, especially around major sporting events like the Super Bowl and March Madness that are attracting new visitors to Atlantic City. The trickle-down effect is substantial. While people are wagering on games, they are also driving revenue through hotel rooms, food and beverage, entertainment and shows, both in casinos and in non- casino resort businesses.
The numbers show that sports betting is creating a ripple effect. April marked the 11th straight month of growth for the Atlantic City casino industry. Sales from third-party businesses increased nearly 40 percent to over $54 million for the first three months of 2019. Statewide, patrons have wagered more than $2 billion dollars since it’s legalization, which is an astounding figure.
Not only has sports wagering helped support local jobs and businesses, but it is attracting new visitors to experience this world-class destination resort first-hand. Tourism numbers are growing. The 2018 Economic Impact of Tourism in New Jersey indicates the state saw a 7.4 percent growth in tourism, in large part to Atlantic City. Atlantic County saw 20.61 million person-trips in 2018, by far the most of any county in New Jersey last year. Conventions and meeting sales increased for the fourth consecutive year in 2018, according to Meet AC CEO Jim Wood. The 238 conventions booked last year are expected to generate 371,996 hotel rooms and $400 million in local impact through 2022.
And in just one year since the first legal sports bet was placed on June 14, 2018, New Jersey is on track to potentially surpass Nevada as the top sports betting market in the United States. At the Betting on Sports America conference in April, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy made a bold pronouncement — Nevada is in New Jersey’s sights, stating, “We can overtake it as early as next year." The message is clear. Sports betting is having a major impact in New Jersey and the Atlantic City resort.
As summer tourism kicks into high gear here in Atlantic City, there is a feeling of optimism and excitement about what lies ahead. In the first four months of 2019, New Jersey has seen over $84 million in sports wagering revenue with over a $1.2 million in taxes and fees collected by the state. Industry experts believe Atlantic City’s growth will translate into increased revenue, jobs and tourism throughout the summer months.
As we enter the second year of sports betting, the sky is the limit. I believe sports betting will help take New Jersey and Atlantic City’s economy to the next level.
Joseph Kelly, of Atlantic City, is president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce.