Gamblers Flocked Back To PA Casinos In July Without Increasing Internet Or Sports Betting

Big return of activity within casinos offset slowdown in online gaming, sports wagering
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Pennsylvanians reduced their sports betting in July and wagered about the same on iGaming as the prior month, but they flocked to casinos at a level even higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Those were the contrasting takeaways from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s release Wednesday of its monthly revenue report accounting for the state’s 13 online sportsbooks, 15 retail sportsbooks, 17 iCasinos, and 14 brick-and-mortar casinos. There are now 15 casinos, but as the Hollywood Casino York mini-casino only opened last week, it was not part of the July revenue report.

The reduction in sports betting handle was expected, as mid-summer is a slow period on the sports calendar and other states previously reporting their July figures had already shown a 20% or more reduction from June’s volume. In Pennsylvania, the $304.4 million wagered in July, with 90% of it done online, represented a 27.6% drop. Taxable revenue for the sportsbooks amounted to $19.9 million.

The online casino revenue from slots, table games, and poker of $88.7 million was roughly equivalent to June’s $88.9 million. It represented a second straight month of decline, however, after May’s record of $101.3 million that players gambled away digitally.

It was land-based casino gaming that achieved July’s most notable upswing. It marked the first month that Pennsylvania’s casinos took in more revenue from players on-site than before the pandemic, and that increase would have occurred even without the addition of the two Live! casinos.

Retail slots and table play from all 14 casinos brought the operators $309.8 million, and without the Live! properties in Philadelphia and Westmoreland County they totaled $278.1 million. In July of 2019, the 12 casinos that were then operating gained $276.6 million from on-site gaming.

In June, the 14 casinos combined for $260.6 million. That 18.9% increase from June to July likely had something to do with it being the first month in which all COVID-related restrictions within casinos were lifted for the entire month for the first time.

When tallying revenue from all legal commercial gaming in Pennsylvania — which also includes truck stop VGTs and fantasy sports contests — the gaming board reported that the $423.7 million in July set a new monthly record for the state.

It was the lowest sports betting in a year

The $304.4 million sports handle represented the lowest amount of legal sports betting since July 2020, when many sports were shut down due to the pandemic. The $19.9 million in taxable revenue (after deduction of $7.7 million in promotional credits given to customers by the sportsbooks for marketing purposes) was the lowest since February.

FanDuel remained well ahead as the market leader, with $106.7 million in handle and $9.5 million in revenue, although its 38.7% share of statewide handle was lower than in prior months.

DraftKings reported $66.2 million in handle (24% share of the market) and $2.8 million in revenue.

For the second straight month, BetMGM was ahead of Penn National Gaming’s Barstool Sportsbook in handle, $29 million to $23.4 million, although Barstool fared better in revenue, earning $1.7 million compared to $0.6 million for BetMGM.

With BetMGM claiming 10.5% of the statewide handle and Barstool taking 8.5%, it meant the four most popular operators in the state accounted for almost 82% of all wagers, with the nine others divvying up the remainder.

Four of the smaller online sportsbooks — Caesars, TwinSpires, Betfred, and Betway — actually reported revenue losses in July from giving out more in promotional credits than they won off of bettors.

State’s iCasinos settling around $90M monthly

Though it had seemed a few months ago that the state’s iCasinos might plateau at monthly revenue above the $100 million level, as New Jersey’s iGaming industry has experienced, the more likely long-term figure now seems to be about $90 million.

The iCasino revenue levels thus far this year have been:

January: $80.4 million

February: $77.8 million

March: $97.7 million

April: $92.7 million

May: $101.3 million

June: $88.9 million

July: $88.7 million

Those seven months have averaged $89.7 million, which would amount to almost $1.1 billion over the course of a full year. State and local governments end up with more than 40% of that revenue from Pennsylvania’s relatively high tax rates of 54% on slots play and 16% on table games.

Poker accounts for a relatively meager amount of iGaming revenue compared to slots and tables, but with the addition of Caesars-affiliated WSOP.com as another site in July, there was a modest uptick to $2.6 million in poker revenue. Almost $2 million of that was from PokerStars and about $375,000 from the newer, shared BetMGM/Borgata poker platform. WSOP took in $241,691, but it only launched July 12, so it could conceivably double that amount in August.

Pennsylvania does not break down revenue results individually for each of the 17 online sites, but those sharing Penn National’s license (Hollywood Casino, DraftKings, BetMGM, Barstool) were again tops with $32.1 million in revenue.

PlaySugarHouse, BetRivers, and Borgata, which are all licensed through Rivers Casino Philadelphia, totaled $25.8 million.

Delta variant represents question for casinos’ future

The surge in retail casino activity was surely welcomed by operators, who spent many months with their retail gaming revenue lagging 10-to-20% (or more, in some cases) behind pre-pandemic levels. Gradually, as restrictions have been lifted on capacity, social distancing, alcohol use, and indoor smoking, the operators have resumed the type of marketing and live entertainment that helps attract crowds.

At the same time, the public in late spring and early summer began feeling far more comfortable about crowded settings as more people became COVID-vaccinated, though there’s no telling how that could change as a result of increased cases due to the Delta variant. Philadelphia recently imposed a city mandate that requires casino guests as well as employees to wear masks again, and some casinos are again banning indoor smoking.

The casinos were open in July 2020 except for partial closures of the Rivers Casinos in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but they all had various restrictions when open. Those showing the most year-over-year improvement in their slots revenue among those open the entire month both this July and last July included Wind Creek Bethlehem, up 34.9%; Presque Isle Downs & Casino, up 34.7%; Valley Forge Casino Resort, up 30.1%; and Mohegan Sun Pocono, up 22.9%.

Photo: Shutterstock

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