Can Golden Nugget AC Hit This Milestone For Online Gambling?

Golden Nugget has been the king of online gambling in New Jersey since 2016.

And ever since then, its monthly revenues have garnered headlines. It was an amazing day when online revenues hit $5 million for the casino. Then it surpassed $8 million. And then $10 million. And then $14 million.

Golden Nugget (with the help of its online partners) now holds a 37% market share.

But here is another fact: The May 2019 revenue data from the Division of Gaming Enforcement shows just over a $3 million difference between Golden Nugget’s land-based revenue ($17,137,676) and online casino revenue ($14,078,208).

That total gaming revenue puts it in the No. 2 spot for the month of May among all Atlantic City casinos.

But can that online number surpass its land-based number in the future? All signs point to yes, and here’s why.

Expanding live dealer games

One of the things that separated Golden Nugget from its NJ online casino competitors is the live dealer studio located right on the property.

They were the first of the AC casinos to roll out this novel concept and reaped the benefits. Golden Nugget was often quick to point out that its live dealer games were a gold mine.

But the company continues building on those initial plans.

Earlier in June, Golden Nugget online casino expanded access to its live dealer games. The studio is now open 24/7. This change in hours (eliminating the 3 a.m. closing time) means the popular games are available any time of day.

As more and more customers get wind of this, online numbers could continue to increase. Plus, there are several more seats at the live dealer tables these days.

The amount of tables has more than quadrupled in size going from three to 13 tables. Increasing from eight to 24 hours is good for business, too.

Of course, several other operators followed in Golden Nugget’s footsteps, including its own online partners Betfair Casino and PlaySugarHouse NJ.

A new Evolution Gaming studio opened at Hard Rock Atlantic City last year and with that came live dealer games at DraftKings Casino, Resorts and Borgata to name a few.

Instead of fearing the competition, Thomas Winter, senior vice president and general manager of online gaming for Golden Nugget, sees a prosperous road ahead to the tune of “close to $100 million” wagered at the Golden Nugget studio in June alone.

” … We strongly believe that live dealer will eventually account for more than 20 percent of the online casino market, so there’s still plenty of room for innovation and growth.”

The popularity alone, therefore, likely is one reason Golden Nugget’s online revenue will continue to grow.

Golden Nugget online vs retail revenue

Strong online gambling partners

There is more to the online success story besides the live games.

New Jersey regulators permit license holders to have deals with multiple partners, and each has taken full advantage of that rule. Golden Nugget is well aware that it’s online growth is not solely due to its own success.

“You can’t really compare land-based and online revenues because online combines revenues from different skins,” said Winter.

In Golden Nugget’s case, there are four brands, or skins:

The SugarHouse brand in and of itself is an extremely recognizable one to customers residing in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area.

Besides having a land-based casino located nearby, the platform has casino games and sports betting. (The latter operates under the Monmouth Park license.)

And right now, PlaySugarHouse benefits from renewed interest in the region. A sister Pennsylvania site was the first of the sports betting apps to hit the market there. Its PA online casino is targeted for a mid-July launch.

But that’s just one slice of the pie.

The Betfair-FanDuel connection

Betfair, besides being around since 2013, is one of the many brands that established itself in the UK before launching in the Garden State.

But the bigger story here is that parent company Flutter Entertainment (previously Paddy Power Betfair) also owns the market-leading FanDuel Sportsbook brand.

It means customers have access to a shared wallet and there are strong opportunities for cross-selling. FanDuel customers are currently being offered $10 in free play if they sign up for a Betfair account.

Churchill Downs’ BetAmerica launched earlier this year, and like other brands, the NJ online sportsbook and casino are integrated into a shared wallet.

No matter which app customers are using, they are all contributing to Golden Nugget’s overall online revenue picture.

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Retail customers vs. online customers

What’s important to note is the customers using these platforms are not necessarily the same ones gambling on the casino floor.

Golden Nugget is known for attracting an older crowd. Online gambling, on the other hand, caters to a much younger crowd.

Upcoming appearances by Little Anthony & The Imperials and Tommy James & The Shondells are not going to necessarily attract the online casino customer.

Winter notes the online player is 15 years younger than the typical land-based player. In essence, there are “two distinct demographics.”

While it’s hard to pinpoint an exact number, online casino customers are still visiting the land-based operation.

Winter explains:

“Of course there is some overlap, but our data shows that land-based patrons who start playing online don’t stop coming to the physical casino.

“If anything, they tend to increase their land-based play, not reduce it. Online gaming competes with other forms of digital entertainment, like Netflix, not with land-based entertainment, which is by nature a social experience while mobile is a solitary, time-killing one.”

The NJ online sports betting dilemma

There’s still a couple wild cards to Golden Nugget’s revenue equation.

First, its self-branded NJ sports betting app has yet to really take off. You may or may not have noticed the lack of marketing of its mobile app, at least the sports wagering part of it.

Keep in mind, the Golden Nugget platform didn’t launch its mobile sportsbook until Feb. 19 (missing the entire NFL season).

Plus any brands operating under the Golden Nugget license (retail and mobile) are not permitted to offer NBA betting. This is a result of owner Tilman Fertitta holding a majority stake in the Houston Rockets.

But the NBA betting ban could be lifted by the time the 2019-2020 season rolls around.

A proposed bill in the NJ Assembly would essentially permit wagering on any games not involving the Rockets.

The combination of NFL and NBA wagering plus a heavy dose of cross-selling could generate a big revenue boost that has yet to come into play.

For now, Winter is taking the wait-and-see approach.

“NBA is, of course, an important part of sports betting and not having it meant we couldn’t compete on a level playing field. This is why we didn’t rush to launch our mobile sports betting last year and why we haven’t actively advertised it since launch.

“If the New Jersey legislation is amended to prohibit team owners from offering bets on their team, as opposed to all games of the league, which has worked well in states like Nevada or Mississippi and is enough to protect sports integrity, then we’ll, of course, reconsider our investments in online sports betting.”

Golden Nugget currently has two of its three allotted online sports skins filled. There is no word on if and when a third platform will be coming.

Opening the door to cross-selling

Speaking of cross-selling, there is a possibility customers will start seeing some cross-selling between the Golden Nugget casino and sportsbook platforms.

It follows the trend set by market leaders FanDuel and DraftKings Sportsbook.

Winter notes, however, cross-selling from casino to sports is less significant than the other way around.

Summertime at the Golden Nugget

The other element to consider in any revenue discussion is the seasonal nature of Atlantic City.

During those prime summer weeks between Fourth of July and Labor Day, it’s highly unlikely mobile customers will take a summer break.

But the Golden Nugget is the only AC property with its own marina (some may remember the property formerly known as Trump Marina).

And like previous summers, there are special events booked for The Deck, including next month’s FakeFest. The H2O Pool is open for the summer, too, so land-based customers do have reasons to book an extended stay.

If we look back at July numbers from last year, Golden Nugget reported $20,105,343 in casino floor revenue and $9,328,814 in online revenue, the latter of which was a 49.8 percent year-over-year increase.

August 2018 produced $8,172,508 from online gambling. Combined, that is more than $17 million in NJ online revenue when the beach and Atlantic Ocean are the prime attractions.

However, during those same two months, land-based revenue exceeded $40 million.

Will we see the day when Golden Nugget’s internet gaming revenue matches or even surpasses that of the casino floor? Likely not during the current season.

However, the additions of 24/7 live dealers, more cross-selling opportunities, strong partnerships, and the possibility of NBA betting are setting up a very interesting scenario.

The gap is tightening, and it’s only a matter of time.

About the Author

Bill Gelman

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and world championship boxing at Boardwalk Hall. He is now adding NJ sports betting and online gambling to the mix.