Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states other than Nevada to set up legal regulated sports betting industries of their own. And one year later to the month, New Jersey sports betting surpassed the Silver State in handle for the first time.
According to the latest monthly revenue report released by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), the New Jersey sports betting industry – both brick and mortar and online / mobile sports betting – accepted $318.9 million in total wagers during the month of May.
That figure barely pipped the $317.4 million in sportsbook handle reported over the same period per the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).
Nonetheless, the more than $1 million difference in handle favoring the Garden State marked a milestone moment in America’s new post-PASPA landscape. Since the Supreme Court issued its historic ruling to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, seven states – Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island – have launched legal sports wagering services in various capacities.
New Jersey was the second to do on June 11 of last year, after its seven-year quest – involving voter approval via ballot referendum in 2011, and two Sports Wagering Acts passed by the state Legislature in 2012 and 2014 – culminated in PASPA’s repeal.
But based on Atlantic City’s prior status as the East Coast’s gambling capital – along with a significantly higher population density than every other newly legal jurisdiction but Pennsylvania – New Jersey needed only 11 full months to supplant Nevada as the country’s sports betting kingpin.
All told, the state’s 10 brick and mortar sportsbooks – operating in Atlantic City casinos and statewide racetracks – combined with 14 affiliated online / mobile betting platforms to turn the record-setting handle into $15.5 million in “win” revenue.
And while the gulf in handle was razor thin at less than one-half of one percent, that revenue rate represents a 25 percent improvement on Nevada’s win of $11.6 million in May. The gulf is made even more impressive given Nevada’s tourism rates and glut of nearly 200 retail sportsbooks complemented by online / mobile wagering.
Raymond Lesniak – the retired former state senator who led New Jersey’s legislative efforts to rebuff PASPA for several years – spoke with ESPN about May’s historic handle numbers:
“I’m not surprised at all. I’ve been saying all along that the Northeast and New Jersey is a hotbed of sports activity. We love our sports. We are well on our way, in overall gaming, to becoming the Las Vegas of the East Coast.”
Affectionately known as “Uncle Ray” in the rough and tumble arena of New Jersey state politics, Lesniak served for 40 years in the Legislature before retiring in January of 2018.
Lesniak’s retirement began only months before the Supreme Court ruling validated his sports betting efforts, which included lobbying for online / mobile integration to put New Jersey on par with Nevada.
Whether or not his prognostications about Atlantic City becoming Sin City East will be proven true remains to be seen. Even so, neighboring New York’s recent failure to authorize online / mobile wagering as part of the Empire State’s recently approved sports betting regulations should help New Jersey maintain separation from its historical rival and other regional contenders in the months and years to come.