Almost anyone who has ever placed a legal bet in New Jersey has noticed marketing come-ons for them to try out multi-leg parlay bets – now most often of the “single-game parlay” variety.
The more legs a gambler tries in hopes of hitting on all counts, the larger the payout. But the NJ sportsbooks, it is clear, continue to be the ultimate winners overall.
In the first half-year of legal sports betting in New Jersey, parlay wagers led to an 11.1% “hold” for the books, with the public getting back the other 88.9 cents per dollar.
Parlays produced a 13.1% hold in 2019, then 15.7% in 2020, 17.5% in 2021, and 18.4% in 2022. Remarkably, in January 2023 figures just released by the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, that figure had a small uptick to 18.6%.
Of course, there has to be an upper limit on parlay hold percentages, as wise consumers either switch their wagers to other directions or budget their money by cutting back on the amount they bet. But it’s not clear yet that the peak has been reached.
The increase in the parlay win percentages for the books has led to a mostly parallel rise in the overall win percentage in New Jersey – from 5.8% in 2018 followed by 6.4%, 6.6%, and then 7.1% in 2021. After a modest dip to 6.7% in 2022, the overall hold was 8.0% in January.
Who are the shrewdest bettors?
The drop in 2022 stems mainly from NBA and college basketball bettors, who for a third straight year proved to be the savviest gamblers in the state. After matching hold rates in 2020 and 2021 of just 3.2%, that mark dipped to an impressive 1.7% last year.
Football bettors have outshone baseball bettors in the last three years, at losses of 4.1%, 3.6%, and 3.6%. Baseball bettors lost 4.7%, 4.1%, and 4.4% in 2020-22.
State regulators, unfortunately, lump all other sports – hockey, golf, tennis, auto racing, and so on – into a single “Other” category in the monthly filings from DGE. In the last three years, those bettors overall have fared slightly worse than basketball, football, and baseball bettors – but better than the overall win percentage kept by the books.
The slight decline in overall hold for the sportsbooks from 2021 to 2022 mirrors an almost flat playing field for parlay wagers – 22.8% of the total amount wagered in 2021 vs 22.4% last year. But the books reported an increase in parlays in January to 24.7% of total wagers.
As to why bettors keep trying parlays, one reason is hearing about how a fellow gambler struck it rich. On Wednesday, DraftKings publicized a successful 15-leg parlay – all of the selections being men’s college basketball “Over/Under” totals – that turned a $5 wager into a $81,539.70 bonanza for the lucky (or skillful?) player.
Retail VS online wagering
All nine Atlantic City casinos and all three New Jersey state racetracks feature sportsbooks for their visitors’ convenience – but that is no more than a modest amenity. In 2022, 92.7% of all wagers were made online, mostly on smartphones and laptop computers.
Also last year, just over half of all wagers in New Jersey were made by Meadowlands Racetrack mobile sports betting partners FanDuel, PointsBet, and Superbook. Another 20% was wagered with Resorts Casino partners DraftKings and FoxBet.
Borgata and its partner BetMGM gained 11% of the market share, with the other casinos and racetracks and their mobile partners combined totaling slightly more than Borgata/BetMGM’s share.
FanDuel maintained the lion’s share of that mobile sports betting total with the Meadowlands, in part because it was the pioneer in introducing “same game parlays” in 2019. While there are many ways to choose bets – including having players on each team – for a casual fan it can be tempting to bet on big games from, say, the quarterback, the top running back, and the top wide receiver.
The problem is that, with a few exceptions, every leg has to be a winner in order for the gambler to cash in. And as the numbers above show, that doesn’t happen all that often.