The state of Pennsylvania technically had record casino gaming revenue in 2018, but it was another year of stagnation for the market.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board posted figures Wednesday showing that the state’s 12 casinos won a combined $3,248,681,377 from slot and table game gamblers last year, up a measly 0.67% over 2017. Remarkably, the state’s casino market is up less than 3% since 2012.
However, that figure is only for slots and tables, and doesn’t factor in the state’s new sports betting market, which generated $2,515,542 in revenue in 2018, thanks to the openings of three sportsbooks late in the year. That extra money didn’t move the needle much for the 2018 revenue total, but the new offering could have big results in 2019 as more books open.
Pennsylvania is also poised to launch online casino gaming this year, and satellite casinos are also in the pipeline. Pennsylvania passed a sweeping gambling expansion package in 2017 in an effort to plug a massive budget deficit.
It was a rough year overall for table games in the Keystone State. There’s no other way to spin it. The casinos collected $878,796,174 from the tables in 2018, down 1.3% compared to 2017.
While a new record for table games was set in 2017, the casinos followed that up with state’s first ever year-over-year table game decline.
The worst performance in terms of dollars belongs to Sands Bethlehem, which saw table game revenue of $221,914,456, down 8.7% from $243,170,902 in 2017. The best showing belonged to Parx Casino, which posted $191,259,779, up 7.2% year-over-year from $178,297,138.
Seven of the state’s 12 casinos saw Y/Y declines in table games revenue.
The one-armed bandits generated $2,369,885,203 in revenue, up 1.4% year-over-year. Slots accounted for 73% of statewide casino gaming revenue.
The machines were on the verge of having a rough year, but slot revenue was up 8.1% in December.
Parx dominated the slot market with $411,481,328 in 2018 revenue, up 6% year-over-year. Half of the casinos saw year-over-year slot gains, while the other six saw declines.
The state collects more than half of the slot revenue in the form of taxes. Combined with the tax on table games, Pennsylvania collected $1,377,254,368 overall from its casino gambling market last year.
The state’s 10 poker rooms raked a combined $55,693,877 in 2018, down about 6% over 2017 (about $3,400,000).
It was a very bad year for Pennsylvania poker. Even the debut of revamped poker rooms at Parx and Sands failed to have a positive impact. Revenue was up about a percentage point in 2017.
The contraction for poker accounted for about 30% of the state’s table game decline in 2018.
It wouldn’t be shocking if a brick-and-mortar poker room closes in the near future, with Presque Isle Downs Casino (seven tables) and Mohegan Sun Pocono (18 tables) likely being the most vulnerable given their relatively small sizes and that fact that neither filed for an online poker permit, unlike the other casinos.
Revenue since first casino opened
It’s worth remembering that the Pennsylvania’s casino market is still in its infancy compared to markets in Nevada and New Jersey. The first Keystone State casino, a slots-only facility, opened in 2006. The first tables debuted in mid-2010.
Since the first casino opened, the state’s casino market has generated $32,366,049,437 in revenue. Slots have accounted for $25,937,038,781, while table tables have generated $6,429,010,657.
The Keystone State is banking on sports betting really moving the needle. A 2017 study from Oxford Economics projected that a mature Pennsylvania sports betting market has the potential to generate more than $700 million in annual gaming revenue. It is possible that sports betting could cannibalize existing revenue to some extent, but one the other hand it could grow the table games and slots market, as sports betting and casino game patrons share demographics. More sports bettors in a casino could provide a major boost for the tables and the machines.
Time will tell.