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Atlantic City casinos drive U.S. sports betting monthly record at $668M

ATLANTIC CITY — New Jersey gamblers set a nationwide record for the most money bet on sports in a single month, plunking down almost $668 million in August on events including resurgent baseball, basketball and hockey seasons that had been interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, figures released Monday showed.

That smashed the previous record of $614 million set in Nevada in Nov. 2019.

The extra money helped cushion the blow of months of losses incurred by New Jersey’s casinos and two racetracks that offer sports betting, helping them start to rebound financially.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement shows the casinos and tracks collectively won $326.3 million from gamblers in August.

That figure was heartening to the casinos because it came in a month where they were restricted to operating at 25% of capacity, and it also included a doubling of internet gambling revenue compared to a year ago.

All told, the casinos and tracks saw their revenue decline by only 7.5% compared to August 2019, when they were going full-blast and there was no pandemic.

“Recovery is underway, even with continuing travel advisories that decreased visits from out of state,” said James Plousis, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. “Atlantic City’s casino win was almost 70% of last August’s strong performance, although the months are not reasonably comparable because of restrictions on capacity, amenities, and entertainment.”

August casino numbers

He also noted that indoor dining was allowed to resume on Sept. 4, a development which will presumably be felt in next month’s revenue report.

The biggest news was a record-setting performance by New Jersey’s sports betting industry. In addition to surpassing Nevada’s previous high, the $668 million wagered on sports in August surpassed the previous New Jersey record of $562 million set in Nov. 2019.

After paying off winning bets, the casinos and tracks reported $39.5 million in revenue on sports bets in August. It was the first full month of baseball this year, and gamblers also had hockey and basketball playoffs to bet on.

Internet gambling brought in $87.7 million, more than twice what it had a year earlier.

Only two casinos, Ocean Resort and the Golden Nugget, managed to post year-over-year revenue increases. Ocean was up 3.7% to $26.6 million, and Golden Nugget was up 2.5% to $37 million.

“Our year-over-year gaming revenue increase is a testament to the momentum Ocean created prior to the closure, which immediately resumed upon reopening in July,” Terry Glebocki, Ocean’s CEO, said in a statement. “We are pleased with our August performance despite a less favorable calendar, ongoing restrictions on occupancy and the lack of indoor dining until early September.”

Caesars had the biggest decline, down 31.4% to $21.2 million, followed closely by its sister property Harrah’s, down a nearly identical 31.3% to $21.4 million. Resorts was down 28.8% to $13.8 million; Tropicana was down 26.5% to $26.5 million; Bally’s was down 21.3% to $15.2 million; Borgata was down 19% to $64.7 million; and Hard Rock was down 3.5% to $39.4 million.

“We are pleased with the results from our first two months since reopening, as our strengths begin with Hard Rock’s industry-leading ‘Safe & Sound’ protocols, providing good, clean fun within our destination for visitors,” Hard Rock president Joe Lupo said in a statement.

Two internet-only entities did well in August. Resorts Digital was up over 97% to $27.9 million, and Caesars Interactive NJ was up almost 87% to $9.2 million.

Among racetracks, the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, just outside New York City, took in $21.1 million in sports betting revenue compared with $11.8 million a year earlier, and Monmouth Park in Oceanport near the Jersey Shore, took in $1.8 million compared to $2 million a year earlier.

GALLERY: Atlantic City casinos reopen after COVID-19 shutdown

Local
breaking featured
Did South Jersey's shore weekend weather make the grade? Here's this year's report card.

Memorial Day weekend’s weather was streaky, and the mood uncertain as we entered the summer season at the shore, but a streak of fair weather weekends followed and the Labor Day weekend was spectacular.

And the fine weather did more than brighten our moods, it drove people to the shores and boardwalks.

“Our businesses needed this great weather to close out the summer season. The weather drove people to the shore communities and we clearly saw them on the Boardwalk and taking advantage of the outdoor dining experiences so many restaurants are able to offer.,” said Michael Chait, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber.

It didn’t start out that way. Memorial Day weekend arrived chilly, damp, cloudy and bringing showers. The exact type of weather that drives people inside. In that regard, it matched the state of mind (and orders of the governor) at that stage of the COVID-19 pandemic: A stay-at-home order wouldn’t be lifted for another two weeks; you couldn’t dine at a restaurant; and school graduations, still a week away, were in flux.

That earned the first weekend of the summer season a D+, the first one given since the shore summer weekend report card grading started in 2018.

Fortunately for us, summer turned it around in the weeks that followed.

This was helped in part by the fact that our climatological summer — June through August — went on to become the second warmest in New Jersey since records were kept in 1895, according to the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist.

Despite that, there were few excruciatingly hot days. Only one daily high temperature record (at 92 degrees) was broken at Atlantic City International Airport, June 3. Rather, it was the above-average high temperatures and the well-above-average low temperatures that put 2020 in the number two spot.

“In Margate the weather was perfect,” said Eileen LaPat, of Margate on the rain-free, warm and not too humid weekend.

The summer of 2020 earned a B for its weekend weather at the shore, taking into account those 16 Fridays through Sundays, including Memorial Day and Labor Day. While this falls short of the B+ of the 2019 summer, it falls roughly in line with the summer of 2018, which earned a B as well.

2020 summer report card

“A” grades were given to weekends that were rain-free, with low dew points, plenty of sunshine, light winds and high temperatures between 75 and 90 degrees — all perfect for getting outside to the shore while still maintaining safe social distancing on the sand.

That happened twice during the summer, June 19 to June 21, and Labor Day weekend. At Sen. Frank S. Farley Marina in Atlantic City, no rain fell from Sept. 4 to 7. High temperatures were between 78 and 82 degrees, with a sunny to partly sunny sky. This was welcome news for many shore businesses.

“Good weather drives people to the shore. When they come, they look for the experiences they’ve had for years. All of our businesses have made every effort to deliver that in a safe and responsible manner,” Chait said.

Five weekends earned a B+, six earned a B, one earned a C+ and two earned a D+. Those two failing grades were for Memorial Day weekend and the weekend of Aug. 14 to 16.

The best stretch of weekends was from June 19 to 21 to July 17 to 29, which featured all As and B pluses.

Precipitation achieved the 26th wettest of the past 126 years in the state. June was below average, but July and August were 2.22 and 1.94 inches above their monthly averages, respectively.

September is the third driest month of the year, on average, in Atlantic City. With warm weather and sunshine still to come, a new summer season awaits.

“Had to be the best Labor Day weatherwise in a very long time, let’s keep it going the rest of locals’ summer month (September),” said John Rogers, 62, of the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township.

Finally, the tropics are quiet, here's what storms we've seen so far

Local
top story
WATCH NOW: Western wildfires leave hazy mark on South Jersey sky

The raging wildfires in the western United States showed up in the South Jersey skies Monday.

With a cold front pushing out clouds early Monday morning, the region should have experienced a sunny day. However, the bright, blue sky never came. Instead, a hazy sunshine, easily mistaken for a cloudy day, marked the day.

The reason was thousands of miles away, in the form of smoke from numerous wildfires on the Pacific coast states of California, Oregon and Washington.

In the past week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the flames have engulfed over a million acres. The raging wildfires have killed at least 35 people, destroying neighborhoods.

A mid to upper level ridge of high pressure, centered in the Great Plains, carried the smoke from the Pacific Northwest, and a clockwise-spinning high pressure system did the rest, depositing the cross-country smoke over the mid-Atlantic. After traveling thousands of miles in the air, the smoke is not enough to degrade air quality index here to “unhealthy” levels. However, New Jersey Department of Environment Protection did report the region’s air quality was “moderate”, an advisory for those unusually sensitive to particle pollution.

Find the air quality in your neighborhood.

The wildfire smoke will stick around for much of the week. The ridge of high pressure will remain in the Four Corners region until Saturday, which will continue to waft smoke high in the sky.  

jmartucci-pressofac / National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration  

The smoke forecast from the High Resolution Rapid Refresh Model for 6 p.m. Tuesday. The brighter reds indicate more smoke in the air, which is traveling around a ridge of high pressure in the Great Plains. More hazy skies will be possible Tuesday. 

After Saturday, the ridge will break down and the steering patterns should locate the smoke further north, into New England and Eastern Canada. 

California, Oregon and Washington state have seen historic wildfires that have burned faster and farther than ever before. Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger wildfires in the U.S. to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

Fires raise fight over climate change before Trump's visit

BEAVERCREEK, Ore. — With crews battling wildfires that have killed at least 35 people, destroyed neighborhoods and enveloped the West Coast in smoke, another fight has emerged: leaders in the Democratic-led states and President Donald Trump have clashed over the role of climate change ahead of his visit Monday to California.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Press Meteorologist Joe Martucci's 7-Day Forecast

Local
breaking featured
Mainland's Chase Petty's big summer expected to pay off in MLB Draft

Chase Petty would probably earn an “A” on the traditional first day of school essay that asks students what they did on their summer vacations.

The Mainland Regional High School senior traveled the country playing baseball, threw a handful of 100 mph pitches and made himself a potential big-league, first-round draft choice, which could lead to a multimillion-dollar signing bonus.

“It’s crazy,” Petty said. “It’s a dream come true. A lot of my friends call me Mr. 100.”

Petty pitched in showcase events in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Connecticut and New Jersey.

He faced some pressure. This was the last summer he could pitch on the national circuit before next June’s First Year Major League Player Draft.

In between appearances on the mound, Petty ate plenty of chocolate chip pancakes at Waffle House restaurants and built friendships with players from all over the country.

He capped the summer by pitching a scoreless inning in the Perfect Game All-American Classic in Oklahoma City on Sept. 4. The game featured 50 of the nation’s top high school seniors.

“If you make that (game),” Petty said, “you’re the best of the best.”

Velocity — referred to as velo in the baseball world — is the No. 1 attribute big league scouts look for in pitchers today.

“You can’t teach velocity,” Petty said. “You can teach accuracy. You can teach placing with your pitches. Velo is a big thing because you can’t teach it.”

The 100 mph mark is one of baseball’s magic numbers. It takes a 100 mph fastball roughly 375-400 milliseconds to travel the 60 feet, 6 inches from the pitching mound to home plate. The blink of an eye takes between 300-400 milliseconds.

Petty first threw 100 at a showcase event in Marietta, Georgia, on July 17.

The temperature was in the mid-90s — about 10 degrees above normal — as Petty warmed up in the bullpen. Despite the hot weather, Petty didn’t feel his best.

“I felt like my velo was going to be down that day,” he said.

Petty stepped to the mound, threw nothing but fastballs and struck out the side on nine pitches in the first inning. The 100 mph fastball came on an 0-2 pitch to the second hitter.

“I just had thrown two fastballs that were 98,” Petty said. “I put a little bit more (on the third fastball). It felt the same almost, but everything else felt so much smoother.”

There was no radar gun visible or scoreboard that showed pitch speed. Petty returned to the dugout after the inning, and one of his coaches signaled “100” to him with his fingers.

Petty’s mom, Bonnie, was at the game. They celebrated the 100 mph pitch later that day with dinner at Yard House near the Atlanta Braves stadium.

Petty has verbally committed to attend the University of Florida on an NCAA Division I baseball scholarship, but as is common with top prospects, he has also enlisted agent George Iskenderian of MVP Sports Group as an adviser.

With his summer efforts, Petty went from being someone who would have probably been drafted in the first five rounds to being a potential first-round selection. The rise in Petty’s draft stock could mean an increase of millions of dollars in his potential signing bonus.

Last year, a first-round pick could see a signing bonus of between $8.1 million and $2.4 million. The range is based on when you are picked in the first round — the first overall pick receives the highest, and the bonuses decrease with each pick.

Players selected in the fifth round last year received signing bonuses between $426,600 and $336,600.

“It’s a win-win,” Petty said of being both a top recruit and a potential high draft choice. “You can’t go wrong.”

Petty’s fastball ranges from 95-99 mph. He combines that with a change-up near 90 mph and a slider/curve in the mid-to-low 80s. The difference in speed between the three pitches keeps hitters off balance.

“There’s an extreme arm talent there and a God-given ability to throw a baseball,” said Mike Adams, co-owner of the Baseball Performance Center in Pleasantville. “I think he has the best set of mechanics one can have.”

Petty plans to give his arm a bit of a break this winter. He will continue to throw, but his focus will be on getting bigger and stronger. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Petty has gained about 40 pounds since he was a freshman.

He often trains at the Baseball Performance Center. The facility is filled with talented high school and minor league players. But whenever Petty does something, his peers often stop their workouts to watch.

But for all his accomplishments and skills, most South Jersey high school baseball fans have only heard about him and have not seen Petty pitch. Through no fault of his own, the Somers Point resident has thrown about 30 career innings for the Mustangs.

A knee injury cost Petty much of his sophomore season.

The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out his spring and junior season.

“The rest of South Jersey and New Jersey has kind of read the rankings, but they haven’t gotten a chance to see him in person like we have,” Mainland head coach Billy Kern said this year.

The next time he takes the mound will hopefully be for Mainland this spring.

Petty comes from a baseball family. His father, Robert, is a longtime youth coach.

His older brothers, Bailey Fieger, 24, and Logan Petty, 19, also played baseball. Logan graduated from Mainland last season and plans to continue his baseball career next spring at Rowan College at Gloucester County.

On the inside of Petty’s right forearm is a tattoo that reads “Don’t pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

“It’s a family tattoo,” Petty said. “Growing up, it was really a struggle. It was kind of everything. It’s a personal subject, but every time you look down, I know where I came from and don’t forget it.”

GALLERY: Mainland's Chase Petty preparing for the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft

Contact: 609-272-7209 MMcGarry@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressMcGarry