New Jersey has been a trailblazer with its adoption of legalized sports betting, introducing this as an option in 2018 and quickly seeing a huge uptake among its residents.
2020 was a record-breaking year for sports betting in NJ, and the official figures for revenues, wagered amounts and event preferences make interesting reading, so let’s drill down into the stats and try to understand what created these buoyant market conditions.
Pushing the envelope
According to online-gambling.com sports betting in New Jersey is available from well known brands including MGM and Fox, but it is not consumer familiarity that is driving the market onward, but rather pent-up demand resulting from decades of illegality, compounded by the ongoing pandemic.
These factors came together to create the perfect storm for sports betting to flourish in 2020, with the Department for Gaming Enforcement reporting that $6 billion was wagered by bettors state-wide over the course of the year.
Furthermore there was strong monthly growth seen, and by December the total outlay for a single 30 day period was $1 billion. This is almost twice the amount wagered during the same month in 2019, and this double digit growth looks set to continue. For the year, wagers were up by a third.
With operators making an average of $50 million in revenue each month, and with the tax office taking a cut of around $6 million from this, it seems like everyone is a winner. Generating revenue for the public purse from the sports betting market is one of the key reasons that legislators have been willing to allow its introduction, and New Jersey is the gold standard in demonstrating just how valuable this industry can be to the economy.
Making up for lost ground
What is even more striking about these record-setting sports betting figures is that they come at the end of a year when live sports were disrupted for an extended period at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. While the big league teams eventually found a way to get back to competing behind closed doors, spectators were kept away, and closures as well as capacity restrictions on land-based betting venues meant that wagering should have been significantly hampered.
This was not the case thanks to the prevalence of reputable online sportsbooks, with the aforementioned gambling brands managing to attract ever-growing user bases to their sites and services as live sport got back underway from the summer onward.
Because land-based casinos are the only firms eligible to receive a license to offer online gambling in New Jersey, the web-based sports betting craze helped to prop them up when their bricks and mortar locations were not able to function as normal.
These happy circumstances created a way for the industry as a whole to shield itself from the worst effects of the pandemic, and indeed capitalize on the fact that millions of NJ residents were stuck at home with little to do, and so were looking for new distractions during periods of quarantine.
2021 may be a more average year than its predecessor in many respects, but experts agree that the habit-forming impact of the pandemic will be hard to ignore, and so this uptick in online sports betting is certain to continue.
Where the wagers go
The stats for sports betting in New Jersey are relevant not only because of their economic influence, but also because of what they tell us about the popularity of particular sports in the state.
With $1.4 billion wagered in total during 2020, football was the front runner, which matches the huge audiences it draws. Basketball managed a respectable but undeniably lower $1.1 billion in wagers, and it will be interesting to see whether this relationship and position is maintained going forward.
Most impressively of all, NJ was able to overtake Nevada in terms of total sports betting wagers, with the latter only managing to scrape over the $5 billion mark for the year. While players in NJ actually lost slightly more on average than their counterparts in other areas, this has not dissuaded them from reaffirming their commitment to this fledgling industry.
Finally, the figures suggest that New Jersey’s sports betting sector is set to continue growing throughout 2021 and well into the future, propelling the wider US market onward with it, and showing other states that there are lots of opportunities offered by legalizing gambling. It also proves that clearing up the grey area of online betting is good for bettors and regulators alike.