ATLANTIC CITY — Legalized sports betting in New Jersey will celebrate its one-year anniversary Friday and, by nearly any measure, has given a rebounding gaming industry in Atlantic City a significant boost.
But what sports betting will look like a decade from now and how big of a financial impact it will have on the bottom lines for casino operators and the jurisdictions that license them is less of a certainty.
David Rebuck, director of the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, said the early returns from sports betting in New Jersey were “surprising” while speaking on a panel Thursday morning at the 23rd annual East Coast Gaming Congress and NextGen Gaming Forum at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center.
He said that by week’s end, more than $3 billion will have been wagered on sports in New Jersey.
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“This is an industry, a new industry, that has many, many opportunities that go well beyond just having an amenity added to a casino operation,” Rebuck said. “We know, and our experience has shown, that this is not just a small supplement to everything else that these massive entertainment complexes do. It adds value in ways that are secondary to gaming.”
Mark Giannantonio, president and CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel, said the nearly $5.5 million DraftKings Sportsbook at his Boardwalk property helped satisfy an “unmet need” for gamblers in New Jersey.
Resorts has seen an increase in table and slot revenues in addition to nongaming increases across the property, which Giannantonio said was due, in part, to the excitement and curiosity that came with legalized sports betting.
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“Simply put, we would not have the customers we have today without the sportsbook,” he said.
Despite the optimism, some casino operators are urging caution when it comes to sports betting’s long-term impact, specifically in places where mobile and online wagering are offered.
David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Co., which owns the Maryland Live! casino and is building a casino in Philadelphia, said he believed allowing mobile and online sports betting is a “big mistake.” Cordish said states and casino operators should not be looking at sports betting as a “panacea,” especially “if there are too many entrants and it’s not legislated to push people to casinos.”
“Laws should be crafted to drive people to facilities for sports betting,” he said.
Cordish said casino operators can help themselves by building facilities that are “fun” and engaging for customers, while taking a swipe at some gambling parlors for putting little to no investment in their properties for sports betting.
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In New Jersey, Cordish’s concerns seem to already be materializing. In May, nearly 83% of the $318.9 million wagered in New Jersey was done online or with a mobile device.
Some sports wagering executives are predicting that within 10 years, that percentage could climb even higher.
Moti Malul, CEO of NeoGames, said he believed that in the next decade, mobile and online sports betting would account for 90% or more of all sports wagers in the United States.
“Innovation will drive through that,” Malul said. “And who knows what mobile will look like 10 years from now?”
Dan Shapiro, vice president of strategy and business development for bookmaker William Hill U.S., which operates sportsbooks in Atlantic City at Tropicana and Ocean Casino Resort in addition to online platforms in New Jersey, said customers have already decided they want to wager electronically.
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“That’s the way the world is moving,” Shapiro said.
Itai Pazner, CEO of 888 Holdings, said he sees a more “balanced” market in the future because, by and large, the public still desires the social aspect of a casino.
Gov. Phil Murphy, who was the conference’s keynote speaker and placed the first legal sports wager in New Jersey’s history at Monmouth Park Racetrack, said he still believes the state would surpass Nevada as the national leader in sports betting.
“New Jersey — yes, New Jersey — can very soon and will very soon dethrone Nevada as the sports gaming capital of America,” he said Thursday.
New Jersey reported $313 million in sports wagers placed in April, compared with Nevada’s $328 million the same month.
In the 12 months since sports betting was legalized, casino operators and their online partners have generated nearly $195 million in revenue.