Online Casino Revenue Jumped 73% In PA In April, Helping Offset Industry’s Losses

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A clearer picture emerged in April of how Pennsylvanians have turned to internet gambling to make up for casino shutdowns, as revenue on iCasino sites jumped 73.1% from March to $43.1 million.

The volume of play represents the one salvation for Pennsylvania’s gaming industry during COVID-19 shutdowns, as it was one of only three states where online casino games were legal and operating in April. The state was able to extract $17.3 million in tax revenue from play on the 10 iCasino sites last month.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released the monthly revenue figures Monday morning. To no surprise, they showed that overall, as in other states, gaming revenue was decimated by the indefinite shutdown of the 12 brick-and-mortar casinos due to coronavirus health concerns.

Sports betting and fantasy contests also helped

With no revenue coming in from the land-based operations, total gaming revenue in the state amounted to $46.1 million in April, down 70% from the month before and 84% from April 2019.

In addition to the $43.1 million from iCasinos, revenue amounted to $2.9 million from online sports wagering and $167,254 from online fantasy sports contests.

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The large bulk of gaming revenue normally comes in the form of some $275 million or so monthly from slots and table play within the casinos, and there’s no indication when that will return.

Until the land-based industry came to a halt in mid-March, the state was on a record pace in gaming revenue, with a statewide increase of 16.9% from the year before in January and 13.8% in February. At least 40% of that revenue in the $3 billion-plus-a-year industry is transferred to the government in the form of state and local taxes.

Sports betting handle fell $85 million

While sports betting continues in online/mobile form at nine sites available in Pennsylvania, it’s at a far lower level of activity due to widespread shutdowns in the major sports.

Last month’s statewide betting handle of $46 million dropped 65% from $131.3 million in March, which itself was already down from $329.8 million in February.

The sportsbooks will long remember April 2020 for the loss of such notable events as the finals of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the Masters golf tournament, and the first full month of baseball.

While FanDuel retained its status as the No. 1 betting site in the state, its handle fell to $19 million in April from $54.5 million the month before and a high of $158.2 million in December. Its share of the overall Pennsylvania online sports betting market stood at 41.3%, also down from prior months.

DraftKings remained second, with 27.4% of the market, with a handle that fell to $12.6 million from $29.2 million in March.

They were followed in online handle by PlaySugarHouse ($5.9 million), FOX Bet ($3.7 million), BetRivers ($2.4 million), Parx ($2.2 million), BetAmerica ($97,107), Unibet ($92,521), and Caesars ($28,155).

One PA poker site beat all of New Jersey

Pennsylvania had 10 iCasino sites available for play in April after Caesars and DraftKings each added casino play to their online sportsbooks in the latter part of the month.

Combined, the 10 sites earned $27.3 million from slots play, $10.5 million from table games, and $5.3 million from poker.

The poker comes by virtue of just the one site in the state, the PokerStars operation run in partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort. Its $5.3 million take was up 67.7% from March. All by itself it outpaced the three New Jersey poker operators, who generated a combined $5.1 million in April, which was itself a record amount in that state.

The poker play on PokerStars represented about half of its overall $10.5 million in revenue once slots and table games play were also counted.

The state lists Rivers Philadelphia as the No. 1 iCasino site with $13.7 million in combined slots and table revenue, but that actually represents two different sites — PlaySugarHouse and BetRivers — both operating under that casino’s license. The gaming board provides no breakdown on separate revenue of the two sites.

FanDuel’s site was third in revenue, with $7.9 million, followed by Hollywood ($4.5 million), Parx ($4.1 million), Unibet ($1.8 million), BetAmerica ($214,072), Caesars ($231,464), and DraftKings ($29,416).

While the uncertainty surrounding the return of other gambling options makes it hard to predict if iCasinos will continue their growth in Pennsylvania, the full operations in May of the Caesars and DraftKings sites creates the possibility that April’s revenue record of $43.1 million will be short-lived.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at [email protected].

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