Sports betting numbers show coronavirus pandemic's impact

New Jersey sportsbooks saw year-over-year revenue cut in half in March as the coronavirus pandemic halted essentially all major sporting events during what is normally one of the busiest months of the year for the sports betting industry.

Garden State sportsbooks won a net $13.2 million in March, down 58.3% from March 2019, according to data released Wednesday by New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The amount wagered in March also decreased sharply in New Jersey, where $187.1 million was bet during the month. Last March, $372.4 million was bet at New Jersey sportsbooks.

Other states with legal sports betting markets reported similar decreases in March. More than $187 million was bet with Indiana sportsbooks in March, a 60% decrease from February. Indiana sportsbooks opened for business in September.

With the NCAA college basketball tournament, the regular seasons of the NBA and NHL and the start of Major League Baseball, March is traditionally a boon for sportsbooks. This year, it was the beginning of the industry's darkest days. With almost every retail gaming establishment shuttered, the American Gaming Association estimates 650,000 workers have been impacted, and if the shutdown lasts for two months, $43 billion in economic activity will be lost.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered his state's casinos to close in mid-March. Nearly 90% of the money bet in March with New Jersey sportsbooks was placed online. While sports betting revenue declined, internet gaming profits soared to $64.8 million in New Jersey, a 65.6% increase from March 2019.

Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill U.S., which operates sportsbooks in Nevada, New Jersey and several other states, said the decrease in revenue isn't surprising and he remains confident of the future of the sports betting industry.

"I do not see a scenario where [the pandemic] goes on sort of too long and somehow the industry withers away," Asher told ESPN on Wednesday. "I don't see that happening. The fundamentals of the sports betting business are pretty strong."

While prominent sports leagues are suspended, sportsbooks are turning to other events, such as table tennis and esports, to offer bettors.

"Esports could be the biggest beneficiary of this," Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings, told ESPN. "No doubt, everybody is going to go back to watching sports. But I wonder how many people who are new and picked up esports are going to continue with it. The leagues know that. They're engaging in it."

Robins pointed to NASCAR's iRacing events as an example of how traditional sports are turning to esports to engage with fans. Still, the revenue generated by these new offerings don't make up for the loss of the NCAA tournament or the NBA and NHL playoffs.

"It's too big of void to be completely filled, but they've filled some of it, more than I would've thought," Robins said of some of his book's new offerings.

Nevada's sports betting revenue numbers for March will be released at the end of April.