March Madness is back on, and Atlantic City casino operators hope it's the start of a much more profitable year for gaming in New Jersey.
- We begin with a much needed boost to Atlantic City's bottom line courtesy of March Madness.
- Hope you got your brackets filled out. Unlike last year, basketball fans will be able to bet on the tournament in person this year.
- And New Jersey correspondent Trish Hartman joins us live now from Atlantic City with that story. Trish?
TRISH HARTMAN: Well, Maggie, Brian, casino operators say March Madness is the biggest sports betting event of the year, bigger than the Super Bowl. And they hope this is the start of a much more profitable gaming year for New Jersey.
March Madness is back on.
- Well, we're here because it didn't happen last season.
TRISH HARTMAN: Basketball fans here at Ocean Casino Resort say after last year's tournament was canceled, this year, they're going all out.
MIKE RYAN: We actually had a reservation to come down here last year. And we were coming up until two days before they canceled the tournament. I was at work. I got the terrible news.
TRISH HARTMAN: Now they're here in person, many placing bets at the sportsbook. They say it's a little more exciting than betting online.
TOMMY STAREK: I just bet, like, through the apps and stuff at home. But this is my first time at the sportsbook in Atlantic City. And we're really excited to be down here and watch all the games.
TRISH HARTMAN: The pandemic shut down New Jersey's casinos for 107 days. And online gaming took over. According to data analysis done by Stockton University, New Jersey's online revenue during the pandemic almost doubled compared to the 12 months before the pandemic started. But in-person gaming took a big hit. And total revenues for New Jersey casinos dropped by 20% compared to the year before. Operators say bringing people back in person is critical.
TOM GABLE: We're just happy to have people back in the building. This is the biggest event that we've done on property since we reopened last summer.
TRISH HARTMAN: Borgata Sportsbook was busy too. And we found local fans excited about local teams.
SHANE MOSS: 25 years since Drexel's been in the tournament. Couldn't be happier to see them here.
TRISH HARTMAN: For some, the length of their stay in Atlantic City depends on how their bracket holds up.
JACK LASALA: We're here depending how good we do today.
TRISH HARTMAN: How's it going so far?
JACK LASALA: So far, so good. Virginia Tech needs to hold that lead.
TRISH HARTMAN: Yeah, Virginia Tech did not hold on to that. They actually lost to Florida this afternoon, if you're keeping track. Now, casino and restaurant capacity in New Jersey is capped at 50% right now. The casinos we visited today set up extra viewing rooms with more TVs to allow for social distancing. Reporting live in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Trish Hartman, Channel 6 Action News. Maggie?
- A lot of excitement this year compared to last. Thanks, Trish.