Jersey closes in on the magic number

That magic number of $1 billion in monthly sports betting handle for New Jersey may be rapidly approaching.

A month from now, we may see a report from the state’s Gambling Enforcement Division after last week’s report that December yielded $996 million in wagers at the state’s sportsbooks and mobile accounts. With the NFL playoffs in full gear, the NBA in action, the NHL now underway and college basketball limping along, it would come as no surprise if next month’s report has a “B” instead of a “M” when the numbers come out.

And remember, that will not include the Super Bowl, which will be played Feb. 7 and will be in the next month’s report in mid-March.

For the Garden State, the fact the numbers have managed to keep rising at its sportsbooks during a pandemic that has seen casino business drop 17 percent during 2020 is an impressive accomplishment. Much of it, of course, is a result of mobile betting, which has allowed bettors to be in action while staying safe.

Like in Las Vegas, Atlantic City is hoping widespread vaccination will give people confidence to come visit, stay and play in the casino. But for now, sports betting is helping carry the day.

But for how long?

One need only look across the Hudson River to see the storm clouds forming. New York is looking to get into the mobile sports betting business and while customers from that state constitute a little over 20% of Jersey’s business, that’s potentially lost revenue that will be hard to make up.

New Jersey likely won’t feel the impact immediately once New York green lights mobile betting, but it will be felt at some point. And when it does, those billion-dollar handles will likely revert back to hundreds of millions.

And with that fallback will come reduced revenue to the state. It’s simple math — less action, less revenue. So, New Jersey will have to be ready to factor that shortfall in its projected budget for 2022 because New York figures to be in the mobile game this year.

But don’t feel sorry for the Garden State. It was leading the charge to get sports betting legalized and a recent court decision will bring relief to the state’s Horsemen’s Association which sued the NBA, NFL, major league baseball and the NCAA back in 2014 when it fought the horsemen in court after they had prepared to open a sportsbook at Monmouth Park racetrack.

There are retail books at nine casinos, all three tracks — Monmouth, the Meadowlands and Freehold Raceway — and multiple skins with William Hill, FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Pointsbet, Sugar House, Unibet and 888 Sport all doing business in the state.

Expect things will continue to prosper in New Jersey, even with competition with its neighbor to the east. But for now, it can prepare to celebrate its anticipated breakthrough to $1 billion for January.

Connecticut moving forward

While New York plots its course toward mobile wagering, Connecticut is looking to pass legislation to legalize sports betting and it could be a boon for the state’s tribal casinos — Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

A group of legislators in the state senate are in support of a sports betting bill which would allow the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe to have sports betting, both retail and online betting on their tribal lands.

Gov. Ned Lamont supports having sports betting in Connecticut realizing it’s a revenue stream that needs to be tapped into.

“Sports betting, internet gaming and legalized marijuana are happening all around us,” Lamont said in his recent State of the State address. “Let’s not surrender these opportunities to out-of-state markets or even worse, underground markets.”

DraftKings already has a deal with Foxwoods in anticipation of sports betting going legal and Kambi has aligned itself with Mohegan Sun. It will expedite the process of having to search for vendors and allow the state to launch sooner once the bill gets signed into law later this year.

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