The Nevada Gaming Control Board reported an estimated sports betting handle of $588 million for the month of December on Thursday, capping a rough 2020 in a gaming market heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The handle was down 3.5% from November’s total of $609.5 million. It was also the second straight month with a dip in handle as the December amount was off 10.8% from October’s record of $659.2 million.
But the year-over-year drop in total handle was staggering as Nevada sportsbooks accepted nearly $4.3 billion in wagers — 19.47% less than the 2019 total of $5.32 billion. The Nevada Gaming Control Board did not report sports betting figures in April and May due to the pandemic, but based on the handle in the months bookending April and May — $141.2 million in March and $77.9 million in June — it is reasonable to infer the drop in percentage would have remained in double digits.
Accordingly, revenue totals for the year took a hit as they dipped 20.65% to $261.1 million after the sportsbooks finished totaled slightly more than $329 million in 2019.
In addition to the slight dip in handle, bettors fared significantly better in December than they did the previous month as the win rate plunged from 10.14% — the highest recorded in Nevada since PASPA was struck down in May 2018 — to a more typical 6.9%.
That resulted in sportsbooks collecting approximately $40.6 million in revenues, well off November’s record haul of $61.8 million. The revenues resulted in nearly $2.75 million in taxes entering the state coffers for the month as Nevada collected just shy of $17.6 million for the year.
While overall sports betting numbers are fluid based on when states report figures, it is believed Nevada’s report pushed the national handle over $20 billion for 2020 with a handful of states yet to release December numbers.
Football drives handle, house cleans up on parlays
Football remained the primary driver of handle in the Silver State as bettors made $372.1 million in pigskin wagers in December. The 6.95% win rate resulted in nearly $25.9 million in revenues for the sportsbooks. Bettors were again largely vexed in their bids for big paydays via parlays as the house posted a staggering 35.7% win rate in December, collecting more than $2.6 million of the $7.3 million wagered on those plays.
Some rays of light as 2021 kicks into gear
Not all the numbers were bleak as the sportsbooks across the state made adjustments to multiple rejiggered league schedules. The December handle was up nearly 3% year over year from the 2019 total of $571.2 million, and revenues were 11.7% higher as the house raked in nearly $36.3 million previously.
The fourth-quarter handle for 2020 was also higher compared to the same period in 2019 — $1.86 billion was wagered in Nevada over the final three months of the year, an increase of 7.4% compared to 2019’s figure of $1.73 billion. Revenues, spurred in large part from the record set in November, increased by 25.6% as the books collected nearly $144.8 million compared to $115.2 million in 2019.
Ceding ground to New Jersey
The combination of the pandemic and ready availability of mobile betting in New Jersey — plus people crossing the Hudson River from New York City — wound up shifting the sports betting capital of the country east in terms of dollars. In the first year the NGCB made mobile numbers available, it was determined bettors wagered approximately $2.42 billion online, which accounted for 56.54% of the overall handle.
Nevada only has in-person registration for mobile wagering while New Jersey has remote registration, and the gap it created in overall handle was telling. The Garden State accepted $5.53 billion in online bets in 2020, which accounted for nearly 92% of its $6 billion handle and was 29.1% higher than Nevada’s overall handle for the year.
It contributed heavily to New Jersey outperforming Nevada by $1.73 billion in handle for the year, which resulted in the Silver State’s lead over the Garden State in handle generated in the PASPA era dwindling to $776.4 million with 2021 underway.
It also helped New Jersey books generate 52.6% more revenue than Nevada for the year, and with $792 million in revenue since May 2018, the Garden State has eclipsed Nevada — which has collected $784.1 million — for most sports betting revenue in the PASPA era.