Philadelphia got its first dose of sports book betting Thursday when SugarHouse became the first area casino to launch its sports book and accept wagers during a 48-hour, soft opening supervised by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. By Saturday, SugarHouse was in business, officially, as the PGCB gave the Delaware Avenue casino the thumbs up.
Now, Philly and the rest of the state can start cutting into New Jersey’s sports book, which has nearly a six-month jump on this state’s first casino (Penn National’s Hollywood Casino/Racetrack) to legally welcome sports wagering.
Right now, however, the Garden State has much to crow about. Wagers at New Jersey’s online and retail sportsbooks rose 27 percent in November (after a limp October), to hit the $330.7 million mark, and — in less than six months since its legalization in NJ – has pulled in $928.1 million and counting, according to analysts for PlayNJ.com.
“We’ve been following this long before the federal sports betting ban went down earlier this year, so we have perspective on how it is and how it will go,” said Dustin Gouker, an area native and head sports betting analyst for PlayNJ.com. “Jersey’s on the upswing to become the United States largest legal sports betting market, beyond even Las Vegas.”
Credit online sports betting for Jersey beating such an audacious path to Nevada, as a preponderance of all bets in New Jersey involve sports and mobile wagering, and cut a swatch for every state considering legalizing and regulating sports betting.
Cashing in on the sports book market
There is no simple formula to how and what will succeed and not succeed when it comes to the sports book. That’s why they call it gambling. But what Gouker can point out is that while the October handle in Nevada, the nation’s largest legal sports betting market, was $528 million, a baby market such as New Jersey was banging at its door with that aforementioned $300-plus million. “Blame the busiest months of football, as well as the beginning action of the NHL, NBA, and college football seasons,” said Gouker. “And New Jersey is growing faster than Nevada as the ability to get onto mobile gaming is different. In Nevada, you actually have to go to a sports book location and sign up for a mobile account, and fund your account that way. In Jersey, you can do it from the comfort of your home, or on the phone. If you’re someone who wants to bet on an online sports book in New Jersey, there are hoops like geolocation and customer verification. But, overall barriers to sign up are considerably lower in Jersey than in Nevada.”
Gouker and the PlayNJ team also noted that DraftKings Sportsbook (which holds the cards in nearly all of Resorts AC’s online revenue) remains the online market leader, with $7.2 million in online gross revenue, up 41 percent from $5.1 million in October. FanDuel Sportsbook at The Meadowlands remained the market leader among retail sportsbooks, posting $2.6 million in November gross revenue, up 165 percent from $1.1 million in October. “The Meadowlands also has the New York market cornered — you’re mere minutes from Manhattan to the Meadowlands.” Gouker also went on to credit Ocean Resort Casino ($1.9 million, up from $438,552 in October with William Hill behind them) as having the “best sports book in Atlantic City, as theirs is the most finished, and built out. They had a vision early on, and they made it up quickly. There is also a great amount of interest there due to the fact that they’re new.”
Gouker and the PlayNJ is not surprised that New Jersey is within spitting distance of a billion dollars before 2018’s end. “We know people want to bet, and New Jersey offers a great legal option. There’s a huge appetite for gambling, and this was a market waiting to be tapped. Pennsylvania has different and higher tax rates for what casinos are going to make from it all (the highest in the U.S. on sports betting, a levy of 36 percent on gross gaming revenue). … but you’re going to start seeing action there as well. New Jersey just got it all up, and well, early and quickly.”