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Inside Gaming: Online Revenue, Sports Betting Fuel NJ January Gain

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  • Inside Gaming: Online revenue, sports betting help New Jersey casino numbers increase in January.

  • Carl Icahn wants Caesars to sell per report; William Hill US operate Golden Entertainment NV books.

New Jersey Revenue Up Nearly 20 Percent in January

On Wednesday the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement delivered its monthly revenue report for the state's nine casinos. The first month of 2019 was a good one for Atlantic City, where casinos earned just over $220.6 million in revenue, up 19.7 percent over the $184.3 million of January 2018. That marks the eighth straight month of casino revenue increases for the state.

A year ago just seven properties were open, as both the Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino opened last June. In January the Hard Rock's $17.2 million (down from almost $25 million in December) and Ocean Resort's almost $14.2 million (up slightly from $14 million in December) both added to the overall total casino revenue.

Indeed, revenue from those two new properties was necessary in order to ensure an increase for the overall total. Of the seven properties that were in operation a year ago, only the Golden Nugget Atlantic City had gained for the month, up to almost $26.8 million for a 14.3 percent increase year-over-year.

Also helping add to January's overall total and continuing to affect casino revenue positively for New Jersey are increases in both online gaming revenue and sports betting revenue.

Online gaming revenue was up 53 percent for the month, with the internet gaming win totaling almost $33.6 million in January compared to just under $22 million a year ago. That's an all-time high revenue total for online gaming in the state since its introduction in 2013.

Sports betting revenue also added to the overall total in January, with casinos collectively realizing $9.75 million in revenue. Sports betting wasn't part of the equation a year ago, of course, as New Jersey only introduced sports betting last June following the United States Supreme Court's favorable ruling on the state's appeal against the federal prohibition.

Worth noting as well, the two licensed racetracks Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment and Monmouth Park together added another $9 million in sports betting revenue to the total.

Caesars Shareholder Icahn Pushing for Sale, Reports WSJ

Could Caesars Entertainment Corp. be sold? A report in yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal contemplated the possibility, reported that billionaire mogul Carl Icahn who owns around 10 percent of Caesars is pushing the casino operator to sell itself, according to unnamed sources.

According to "people familiar with the matter," "Icahn believes that Caesars has desirable properties and that the outlook for Las Vegas is positive.... He believes the company would be better managed in the hands of a rival and wants Caesars to let shareholders decide if it should be sold, rather than leave it up to the board."

Caesars shares rose markedly in the hours following the report, up 6 percent as CNBC reports.

The WSJ report notes how Caesars has been approached by two potential buyers over the last year, Eldorado Resorts and Golden Nugget LLC. After preliminary discussions with Eldorado fizzled, Caesars rejected a Golden Nugget proposal in November.

Most of the industry-related headlines involving Icahn over the last couple of years have involved him selling off properties.

In March 2017, the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal was sold by Icahn to Hard Rock International. While the original price tag had been reported to be $300 million, Icahn's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed the actual cost had been $50 million. After filing for bankruptcy on multiple occasions, Trump Entertainment Resorts had become a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises in 2016 after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump relinquished his last 10 percent ownership stake to Icahn.

In late summer 2017, Icahn's company sold the unfinished Fontainebleau Las Vegas property on the Las Vegas Strip for $600 million to New York developer Steven Witkoff and his New Valley LLC. Then last spring a deal was announced in which Icahn Enterprises sold the majority of Tropicana Entertainment to Gaming and Leisure Properties for a reported $1.85 billion.

Caesars continues to operate with Mark Frissora as its president and CEO after it was announced late last year he would be stepping down.

Meanwhile Frissora yesterday announced a new multi-year partnership between Caesars and Turner Sports. With the deal the two entities intend "to develop gaming-themed content for sports fans around the world," including the building of a new Bleacher Report branded studio inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

William Hill US to Operate Golden Entertainment Sportsbooks in Nevada

Finally, this week came the news that sportsbook operator William Hill US has taken over operations at the books in Golden Entertainment's Nevada casinos, reports CDC Gaming.

William Hill US took over operations at both Arizona Charlie's Decatur and Arizona Charlie's Boulder in Las Vegas, as well as at the Aquarius Casino Resort in Laughlin. The operator will also run a new sportsbook due to open next month at the STRAT, the new name of the Stratosphere.

William Hill US was already operating sportsbooks at other Golden Entertainment properties.

Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US, described the development as marking "an exciting new chapter in our relationship with Golden Entertainment." Further plans include the operator to help manage sportsbooks in Montana and Maryland if and when those states pass sports betting legislation.

Photo: "Atlantic City Boardwalk - New Jersey," Doug Kerr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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