Roulette table at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Atlantic City casinos are expected to generate as much as $460 million from online games like roulette and blackjack this year. Photo: Wayne Parry/Associated Press

New Jersey’s burgeoning market for online sports wagering has introduced gamblers to another growing betting scene: virtual casino games like roulette and blackjack on mobile phones.

As a result, Atlantic City casinos and their online partners generated $433 million from such virtual games through November this year and could reach as high as $460 million by the end of the year, according to figures from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and analysts’ projections. That would be a 66% increase from last year, when internet gambling generated $277 million in revenue.

Without the presence of sports betting, online casino revenues would have grown about 20% this year, said Chris Grove, an industry analyst and partner at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.

About 20 online casino brands are competing in a relatively small market. “The market was set up to be incredibly competitive,” Mr. Grove said. “and that competition is successfully producing a product that’s engaging consumers.”

Monthly revenue from online casinos more than doubled in the 15 months after sports betting launched in June 2018, a sign that the state’s open-armed approach to legalizing and regulating different kinds of gambling has created widespread growth, according to a recent report from iDevelopment & Economic Association, which promotes online gambling. Its members include online sports-betting operators and technology companies.

Among the New Jersey casinos seeing the biggest jump in online casino revenue are Golden Nugget LLC and Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, a unit of MGM Resorts International, as well as digital arms of Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Resorts Casino Hotel, which is managed by Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment.

Across the country, though, lawmakers have found betting on football more palatable than the thought of spinning a roulette wheel from a living-room sofa, despite the allure of added tax revenues for cash-strapped state coffers. Only six states including New Jersey have legalized online casinos. Most recently, Michigan’s governor signed a sports betting and internet gambling bill into law Dec. 20. Meanwhile, 1 1/2 years after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for sports wagering on a state-by-state basis, 20 states and the District of Columbia have legal sports betting.

Gamblers made sports bets at Bally’s Atlantic City casino in September. Photo: Wayne Parry/Associated Press

In New Jersey, which launched online casino-style gambling in 2013, the recent revenue boost can be attributed in part to the virtual games being offered alongside sports betting online. Apps such as FanDuel and DraftKings are attracting virtual-casino customers who otherwise wouldn’t seek out such games, according to analysts.

“A big piece of it is the daily-fantasy player realizing that there’s a casino he can play on while he waits for the game to be over,” said Gene Johnson, executive vice president of Victor-Strategies, a gambling industry consulting firm and a co-author of the iDEA report.


Does the growing availability of online sports betting make you inclined to try other online betting, such as roulette or blackjack? Join the conversation below.

In 2013, the administration of New Jersey’s then-governor, Chris Christie, forecast annual tax revenue would reach as high as $180 million. The state quickly lowered that estimate to between $35 million and $50 million, and industry analysts now say the initial projections were unrealistic. This year, tax revenues are projected to total at least $79 million, according to the iDEA report. New Jersey’s most recent annual budget is $38.7 billion.

Jeff Ifrah, a gambling attorney and founder of iDEA, said the impact should be viewed more broadly. The Atlantic City betting industry was struggling, Mr. Ifrah said, and online gambling “came just in time to save the casinos.”

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