The handle – or amount wagered – came out to $11.97 billion – within less than a rounding error of $1 billion bet per month.
Of course, not all months are created equal. Of the roughly $12 billion in bets in 2023, nearly half – or $5.5 billion – was gambled in the last four months of the year that is known as “football season.”
January and March also cleared the $1 billion monthly mark, but the June/July “dog days of summer” handle was just a combined $1.18 billion. That’s a lower amount than was wagered in any of the last four months of the year.
There was speculation that the advantage of offering legal sports wagering in New Jersey from July 2018 through the end of 2021 – a time period when New York had only allowed for on-site sports betting at casinos – had artificially, and thus only temporarily, boosted the New Jersey numbers.
That’s because there is no doubt that many New York City-area residents took advantage of the proximity to northern New Jersey to bet legally during those 3 1/2 years. Modern geolocation technology is so advanced that a gambler living on the West Side of Manhattan could – and in some cases did – simply walk halfway across the George Washington Bridge.
As soon as the gambler crossed the halfway mark over the Hudson River, that New Yorker could tap his New Jersey-based sports betting account on his smart phone. He or she could then walk back home and watch how they fared that day or night.
The numbers, however, do not support the once-plausible theory.
Previous yearly handle totals in New Jersey were $10.944 billion in 2022 in spite of the loss of its “border advantage” – a virtually identical number to the $10.936 billion bet in the state in 2021.
New Jersey residents and visitors also risked $6 billion in 2020; $4.6 billion in 2019; and $1.2 billion in the six-month period in 2018 after legal sports betting was launched.
Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan each have larger populations than New Jersey – yet none of those legal sports betting states have yet surpassed the Garden State in annual betting handle. However, newcomers such as Florida (if it prevails in the courts to maintain its newly-legal sports betting) and North Carolina – where its legal sports betting launch is still expected in time for NCAA men’s basketball “March Madness” – are among the states that New Jersey may find difficult to outpace in the long run.
How Did The SportsBooks Fare in Terms of Profits?
While the public and the media tends to find the massive betting handle numbers intriguing, the New Jersey sportsbook operators naturally focus on their “hold” – the amount of the wagers that the “books” keep after paying out the winners.
In 2023, that number was a state record $1.01 billion – a bit under 10% of the total wagered but right around industry expectations. Gross revenue the year before was $763 million on just under $11 billion, so an increase of about one-third in profits has to make the operators happy – and the collective group of gamblers a bit less pleased by those results.
But as with the volume of sports wagers, the monthly gross revenue only partly mirrors that volume.
The one month that the sportsbooks’ hold percentage topped 10% was May, with $82.2 million in revenue on just $780 million in wagers. And while November proved to be a high-water mark of $1.62 billion worth of bets placed, both September and December cleared the $100 million revenue milestone while November ($95.9 million) did not do so.
FanDuel and two other much smaller Meadowlands Racetrack betting industry partners (SuperBook and PointsBet) teamed for almost half of the state’s gross revenue for the year ($486.6), far outpacing DraftKings and its partner Resorts Casino ($314.4 million). Borgata settled for a distant third at $82.7 million.
That DraftKings/Resorts number represents a massive upgrade versus 2022 – more than doubling 2022 sports betting revenue of $153.2 million. The other “big gainer” for the year was Hard Rock, which also doubled in 2023 – if only to a modest $33 million. Bet365 and Unibet are Hard Rock’s digital partners.
The boom in New Jersey sports betting amounts is a double-edged sword for some observers. To the extent that participants stick to using discretionary income to boost their enjoyment of a sporting event – and to the extent that other gamblers have departed the illegal offshore and non-taxpaying sportsbooks – then the numbers are good news.
But outpacing slightly larger states in betting handle also can be seen as increasing the chances that New Jersey has more at-risk gamblers than those other states who are risking more than they can reasonably afford.
Finally, the amount of state tax revenue is relevant – particularly for non-gambling residents who can only “win” when a new source of dollars available for state spending arrives on the scene.
In 2023, New Jersey collected $291.8 million in tax revenue from mobile and retail sportsbooks (the latter accounted for just $3.3 million of that total figure). That’s a very large boost from the $97.9 million contributed by the sportsbooks just one year earlier.
But no doubt some state lawmakers were jealous upon seeing the staggering tax amount collected by New York from sportsbooks in 2023 – $862 million.
The massive figure stems as much from the 51% sports betting tax rate on New York operators – about quadruple what New Jersey sportsbooks pay – as it does New York’s much larger population.