ATLANTIC CITY — The casino industry started the new year on the right foot by extending its streak of gaming revenue increases to 20 consecutive months in January.
Total gaming revenue reported by the city's nine casinos was more than $270.5 million last month, a nearly $50 million increase, or 22.6%, over January 2019, according to data released Wednesday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.
"2020 is off to a promising start for Atlantic City," said Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and senior vice president of Eastern regional operations for Tropicana Atlantic City’s parent company, Eldorado Resorts. "The city continues to see increased sports betting and tourism, two important economic drivers. I look forward to a year of continued progress in 2020."
Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis said the industry "continued its momentum with strong results in January."
"Revenue from slots, table games, internet waging, and sports wagering all grew," he said. "Internet and sports wagering did particularly well, bolstering the industry’s performance in the middle of the traditional offseason."
Table game and slot machine revenues were up 8.3% industry-wide, with the two newest properties, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort, accounting for much of the growth. The two properties were third and sixth, respectively, in the market in terms of revenue from tables and slots, with both reporting a better than 36% increase compared to last year.
"January was our seventh consecutive month of double-digit growth," said Ocean Casino Resort CEO Terry Glebocki. "We were exceptionally pleased with our slot revenues, which increased 87% over last January. We will continue to invest in our property and our new high limit slot parlor, new Asian gaming salon and new VIP lounge are on their way."
Online gaming revenue increased by more than $21 million, or 64%, in January over the same month last year. It was the first month where internet gaming revenues topped $55 million.
In 2019, online gaming revenue set records in eight out of the 12 months. For the entire year, online gaming's $482.7 million was an annual record and a 61.6% increase over 2018.
Eric Ramsey, a gaming analyst for PlayNJ.com, said that if online gaming continues its upward trajectory, $700 million is "within reach in 2020, which would have been inconceivable just a few years ago."
"The industry’s ability to find new areas of growth, along with the symbiotic relationship that exists with online sports betting, will keep online casino gambling moving forward," Ramsey said.
Local experts continue to see optimism in Atlantic City's future, as the casino industry continues to rebound from last decade when five gambling parlors closed within a two-year period. Hard Rock and Ocean reopened two of those shuttered properties in June 2018, the same month the industry's revenue increase streak began.
"January saw promising increases in gaming revenue over last year and continues to build on the positive trends within brick-and-mortar and the online arena," said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University. "Sport betting and augmented non-gaming activities in the city continue to reinforce the destination's appeal for the discriminating clientele looking for an experience-based getaway."
Sports betting revenues were up 139.9% with a reported $23.4 million in revenue for Atlantic City casinos and their online/mobile partners.
"Guests who came to wager on sports events took the opportunity to explore Atlantic City’s abundant gaming and non-gaming options," said Plousis. "Casino executives I’ve spoken with were very pleased that customers stayed longer to enjoy the city’s diverse dining and entertainment offerings. Making investments that lead to positive customer experiences can provide strong competitive advantage for Atlantic City."
Statewide, sports betting revenue was slightly more than $53.5 million, with $26.4 million reported by the Meadowlands Racetrack and its online/mobile partners, FanDuel and PointsBet.
According to state gaming regulators, more than $540 million was legally wagered on sports last month, bolstered by the NFL playoffs, college football national championship and basketball.
Some sports betting experts predict New Jersey will not only continue to challenge Nevada as the leading market in the country, but could eventually surpass it. According to PlayNJ.com, New Jersey appears to be tracking ahead of Nevada, which generated $497.5 million in January 2019 and has never enjoyed a $500 million January in its history.
"New Jersey could very well top Nevada, not just in January, but for the foreseeable future," said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayNJ.com. "And assuming that happens, we could be seeing the beginning of New Jersey’s more permanent place as the top market in the country."