New Jersey Smashes Nevada’s All-Time Record for Yearly Sports Betting Handle

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Ninety years ago, when Nevada legalized gambling, it began its run as the betting capitol of the United States.

That title, at least as far as sports gambling goes, was stripped on Wednesday, when numbers published by the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement revealed that the Garden State had broken Nevada’s yearly record for sports betting handle, capped off by $996.3 million in December, an all-time record for a single month.

Bettors in New Jersey wagered $6 billion in 2020, obliterating the $5.4 billion record set by Nevada just last year. That includes $4.1 billion in bets in the last five months alone for N.J, just $400 million less than the state bet on sports in the Garden State in all of 2019.

With December’s numbers, New Jersey now has the top five most bet months in U.S. sports gambling history.

So how did New Jersey manage to beat the incumbents in dollars bet every single month of last year, and smash the yearly record?

Five million more residents helps, but so does the ability to register for more than 20 mobile sportsbooks from any location in the state. Nevada, which has yet to report its December handle but has no chance to beat New Jersey, still relies on in-person registration to open accounts. In December, New Jersey reported that 93.2% of the money bet were made online.

That had a huge impact during COVID-19, as Nevada’s in-person casino capacity dwindled. The influx of tourism, which Nevada so relies on to boost its numbers, also dropped precipitously.

Through the first 11 months of 2020, visitor volume to the state was down 56%, according to the Nevada Visitors and Convention Bureau.

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On the flip side, New Jersey benefited greatly from neighboring New York failing to launch mobile gambling to the state, something that is on the table for 2021 thanks in part to a $15 billion deficit exacerbated by the COVID crisis.

New Jersey was expected to one day challenge Nevada for the sports betting handle title, though no one could have dreamed it would come this quickly. New Jersey sportsbooks won $398.5 million in 2020, also a yearly record for any state, and up nearly $100 million from last year.

It was New Jersey in 2014 that first challenged the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 that grandfathered in only Montana, Delaware and Oregon, along with Nevada, to make decisions at the state level as to whether they wanted to have sports gambling or not. New Jersey challenged PASPA until it made its way to the Supreme Court.

In May 2018, New Jersey prevailed when the Supreme Court decided any state could choose their fate as far as sports gambling goes.

New Jersey came out of the gate quickly, with retail sportsbooks at the Meadowlands and at Monmouth Park, and offered the most open ended system that created an influx of sports books to the state.

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