With Atlantic City casinos closed, online sports betting and casino gambling have been trying to fill the void.
Unfortunately for New Jersey sports betting enthusiasts, most sporting events are staying at home with the rest of us. There is light at the end of the tunnel, however.
The major sports leagues are currently formulating plans to safely get back on the field, ice or court. We could start seeing those plans as early as next week.
Before you get too excited, though, Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert and member of the administration’s coronavirus task force, says we are “not ready” for sports just yet.
Even when we are ready, it is likely that the retail sportsbook will look a bit different post-pandemic then it did during the Super Bowl.
But first things, first.
When will AC casinos open?
Before sportsbooks can reopen, Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey racetracks in the state need to open.
While some states are beginning to reopen businesses, NJ is still in lockdown mode.
This week, Gov. Phil Murphy extended NJ’s stay-at-home order until further notice. Some casinos in AC aren’t even accepting reservations until June 1.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that some sports will begin playing before NJ sportsbooks reopen.
One thing we have learned during this pandemic is that not all things are created equal.
Keep in mind that when Murphy begins to lift restrictions, those restrictions may be regional, which could delay the reopening of some sportsbooks in NJ even longer.
Reopening of sportsbooks in New Jersey
Sportsbooks reopening in NJ is only half the battle. Getting customers in the door may be the other half.
Experts believe the coronavirus will return in the fall, which likely means avoiding crowds will be a strong consideration for most people when making plans.
We know the majority of sports betting is done via NJ online gambling sites, not a betting window. That is the opposite of casino gambling, where online casinos account for only about 20% of land-based casino revenue.
In New Jersey, online sports betting accounts for roughly 80% of all betting handle. It makes sense that bettors may forgo watching sports with hundreds of their closest friends for a much smaller gathering at home.
Unfortunately, it may be a longer, more gradual road to recovery for NJ sportsbooks than other businesses in the state.
What can we expect at a post-pandemic sportsbook in NJ?
First of all, expect to see some cost-cutting measures. The key to survival for AC casinos and NJ racetracks post-pandemic will be liquidity.
Gambling companies will need to position themselves to last as long as possible as customers gradually return, and business slowly recovers.
We can’t help but dream of returning to normal. But what does that even mean these days? It is hard to know how a post-pandemic normal will look. We can, however, make some educated guesses.
Sportsbooks will probably rely more heavily on betting kiosks over betting windows to minimize human contact. Oh, and look for those disinfectant wipes sitting next to each one.
It seems likely that capacity figures will be adjusted. The layout of the sportsbook may be redesigned to create more space, making physical distancing easier.
Soon, AC casinos and NJ racetracks will have to make some hard decisions regarding their retail sports betting operations.
Where is a casino’s money best spent right now? The obvious answer is on the casino floor, which means NJ sportsbooks will get the leftovers if there are any.
The good news for the NJ sports betting market is that it isn’t reliant on its retail sportsbooks for the majority of its revenue.
What it is reliant on, though, is sports. Once sporting events are back on the board, handle will likely rebound quickly.
So, will NJ sportsbooks survive the pandemic? Certainly. It will just take a long time before things return to “normal.”