Introduction to New Jersey Slots Return-To-Player 2021
All U.S. casinos closed for months in 2020. Since that unprecedented event, a big concern for slots enthusiasts is if casinos have reduced their return-to-player (RTP) and, if so, have they stopped yet? But is that true? Let’s look closely at the return statistics for New Jersey slots return-to-player for its Atlantic City casinos.
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Casino Financial Woes
Every U.S. casino closed in 2020 due to the global pandemic. These abrupt closures financially hurt the U.S. casino industry. And after re-opening, their financial woes continued mostly due to low numbers of visiting casino patrons.
As my audience of slots enthusiasts returned to newly re-opened casinos, they began to report “tight” slot machine game play, accepted for the most part as understandable.
Let’s use New Jersey’s own publicly available return statistics for Atlantic City’s casinos and find out for ourselves. To be clear, we want to know if return statistics dropped and, if so, how long they dropped and if player win% has returned to pre-pandemic averages.
New Jersey’s Slots Industry: An Overview
There are nine commercial casinos in New Jersey, all located in Atlantic City.
In 1976, New Jersey established legalized gaming in Atlantic City on the eastern side of the United States from Nevada. The first casino in New Jersey opened in 1978.
During their peak in 2006 as the only commercial casinos in the eastern U.S., Atlantic City casinos were an economic boon. After many casinos opened throughout the eastern states, the profitability of Atlantic City casinos significantly declined. But they underwent a substantial resurgence after two casinos re-opened in mid-2018.
New Jersey has nine casinos in Atlantic City including:
- Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino (closed on November 17, 2020)
- Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa
- Caesars Atlantic City
- Golden Nugget Atlantic City
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
- Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
- Ocean Resort Casino
- Premier (opened on November 18, 2020)
- Resorts Casino Hotel
- Tropicana Casino & Resort
New Jersey’s Return Statistics for Slots
The Division of Gaming Enforcement makes New Jersey gaming Financial and Statistical Information publicly available with monthly and quarterly gross revenue reports. The monthly gross revenue reports are most useful with regards to return statistics.
Further, the Division offers Monthly Gross Gaming Revenues by casino. These monthly statistics provide the casino hold percent rather than player win percent, but subtraction from 100% yields the player win percentage.
It’s worth mentioning that New Jersey gaming regulations require all slot machines have a minimum theoretical payout of 83%.
New Jersey’s Monthly Player Win Percentages
The return statistics for Atlantic City casinos are available all the way back to calendar year 2013.
These monthly returns offer the casino hold percentage, where the more common player win percentage is 100% minus the win % provided in these state returns.
After downloading and converting the casino hold percent provided to player win percent, I plotted them as shown below.
Atlantic City casinos closed for three full months, April, May, and June in 2020, as a public health response to the pandemic. Further, Bally’s changed ownership to Premier on November 18, 2020, when returns ended for Bally’s and began for Premier.
Notice how Harrah’s typically had the highest monthly player win%, with few exceptions, while Ocean typically had the lowest return. In 2020, the player win% for all casinos had a 3% range from a low of 89.3% for Ocean to a high of 92.3% for Harrah’s.
Summaries help to understand trends, so let’s examine the statewide average monthly player win percentages.
Here, we can see how three interesting times of behavior:
- January 2019: This month shows the highest statewide return in over two years. I suspect this peak is related to Atlantic City casinos return to profitability due to two re-opened casinos in mid-2018. However, exploring that theory is not the topic under study now.
- January 2020 thru March 2020: Here we see unsteady behavior in the statewide average indicating the Atlantic City casinos changed their financial plans in these months. March’s peak resulted from four casinos maintaining their financial targets in March while five casinos increased their win% by 1.5% or more.
- July 2020 thru February 2021: These months show the lowest statewide returns, except for November 2020 which was 0.1% greater than four other months prior to the start of the pandemic.
2020 Changes Slots Revenues by Casino
New Jersey’s monthly revenue reports also include the “drop” or amount spent by slots enthusiasts at Atlantic City casinos. I’ve tabulated these dollar values for each month starting in January 2019.
Let’s consider 2019 as a baseline, since it didn’t have a pandemic, to which we compare monthly casino revenues in 2020. What we want to know is, did casinos lose money in 2020 compared to 2019 and, if so, how much did each casino lose. Here’s those revenue difference along with statewide.
Atlantic City casinos had no slots income in April, May, and June 2020, so revenue losses were substantial in those months when compared to being open in 2019. However, casinos closed for part of March and July 2020, so those months also saw significant slots revenue losses. These revenue losses are clear in the above graph.
Note that Borgata had the greatest losses, more than twice that of the casino with the second greatest revenue loss. Why is that? It’s apparent Borgata stayed closed for weeks longer in July 2020 than Atlantic City’s other casinos.
As it served us well earlier to identify trends, let’s check the statewide average revenue loss. As shown below, Atlantic City casinos were on track to making a $100 million to $140 million revenue gain in January and February 2020 as compared to the year before.
However, on average, they’ve suffered a relative revenue loss during the remainder of 2020. May and June 2020 each had a revenue loss of over $1.8 billion. Total slots play revenue loss for 2020 was over $9.5 billion.
So, what have we learned? We’ve learned, as we saw in the returns-to-player in Florida and Mississippi, that Atlantic City casinos carefully control their monthly financial performance. They have a financial plan and they stick with it throughout the year, whether it be the best return of all casinos, the worst, or somewhere in-between.
But we also saw a certain amount of lost control of monthly financial performance in the month they closed. Looking at the statewide average player win% after the pandemic, it appears that financial control resumed. And that control exemplifies tight, tight, tight slot machine returns for every casino except Harrah’s and perhaps Borgata, relative to 2019 and pre-pandemic 2020 returns.
Are New Jersey’s casino in Atlantic City cheating you by having tight slot machine returns? Perhaps “cheating” is too strong of a word. But whatever you want to call their attempted recover of nearly $10 billion in losses, most have yet to stop doing it. Frankly, I sympathize.
Summary of New Jersey Slots Return-To-Player 2021
All U.S. casinos closed for months in 2020. Since that unprecedented event, a big concern for slots enthusiasts is if casinos have reduced their return-to-player (RTP) and, if so, have they stopped yet? Looking closely at the return statistics for New Jersey slots return-to-player of its Atlantic City casinos, the answer appears to be a resounding, “No, not yet.”