Federal guidelines have been issued regarding the phased-in approach towards reopening individual states across the union. The Garden State has begun relaxing restrictions on a variety of non-essential businesses, after Governor Phil Murphy met with committees and task forces to implement a safe and secure reopening of the state. One of the hot-ticket items on the agenda is how to manage the reopening of 9 casinos in Atlantic City. This task has been entrusted to AtlantiCare in tandem with the Casino Association of NJ.
Atlantic City Shutdown Casino Drives Traffic Online
The Democrat governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy has announced a structured plan to lift quarantine orders, so that the NJ economy can get back on track. The 9 casinos in Atlantic City are responsible for the employment of an estimated 30,000 workers, according to the NJ DGE (2018 figures). The largest employer in Atlantic City is the Borgata with well over 5,500 positions, with other operators including Ocean Resort and Hard Rock providing for the employment of an additional 4,000 workers. Of those workers who are employed in Atlantic City, some 21,000 were FT positions, accounting for three quarters of all employment.
The ‘Road Back’ Blueprint for Reopening Atlantic City Casinos
The shuttering of NJ’s land-based casino industry has driven substantial traffic to NJ’s legal online casinos, and online poker rooms in New Jersey. Land-based casinos have reported a strong uptick in their online gaming revenues (GGR) since mid-March 2020. The release of the ‘Road Back’ initiative by Gov. Murphy represents the legislative framework according to which a new normal will come into effect. Land-based casinos will feature lower occupancy, and the requirement that gambling patrons wear facemasks, while croupiers and players at table games will be separated by plexiglass windows. Among others, slot machines will have vacant seats every other slot machine game, and players will have their temperatures checked before entering the casino.
To compensate for the ‘footfall decline’ at land-based casinos, New Jersey’s online gambling industry has already crafted innovative solutions to keep things ticking along. As a case in point, New Jersey online poker players at 888poker NJ may soon be privy to a new concept known as ‘Play with Friends’ which launched in the UK and Europe. These private home games are found under the ‘Extra Games’ tab of this online poker room. Friends can be invited by copying and sharing the link, or emailing an invite. While currently unavailable in New Jersey, this option is likely going to be available in the near future, given the increasing popularity of online poker and online casino games in New Jersey. When available, these private poker games will only feature on the poker client.
Strong Growth in GGR for Online Casino Gaming Win in March 2020
Meanwhile, online casino activity in New Jersey is mitigating the impact of lost GGR (Gross Gambling Revenue) through the closure of land-based casinos. Statistics compiled from the NJ DGE indicate that monthly Internet gross revenue for March 2020 amounted to the following:
- Ocean Casino Resort à $658,916
- Hard Rock Atlantic City à $3,317,205
- Tropicana Casino & Resort à $5,154,070
- Golden Nugget Atlantic City à $23,301,487
- Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa à $12,221,924
- Resorts Digital Gaming LLC à $13,509,903
- Caesars Interactive Entertainment à $6,658,398
The data, as compiled by GAN Reports for New Jersey’s Internet gambling growth in March 2020 indicates that there was a year-on-year increase of 65.6%, up to $64.8 million during the month. Significant in the online gaming industry was online sports betting, which amounted to $163.4 million for March, substantially lower than prior months, given all the cancellations that took place. For example, in December 2019, total Internet sports wagering handle was $488.9 million, in January 2020 it was $471.1 million, and in February 2020 it was $436.5 million. While sports betting has tapered off for the short-to-medium term, online casino gaming revenues have increased substantially in New Jersey. April 2020 figures are expected to be substantially greater than March 2020, according to NJ industry aficionados.