January Brought New Highs For Pennsylvania Sports Betting, iGaming

With BetMGM adding significantly to the wagering, sportsbooks attracted more than $600 million in monthly bets for the first time.
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Pennsylvania once again set new records for sports betting volume and iCasino revenue in January, compensating for sharp declines in slots and table games revenue from the impact of COVID-19.

The online and retail sportsbooks connected to the state’s casinos handled $615.3 million in bets last month, a 12.2% increase over the former high of $548.6 million in December, according to figures released Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. After paying out winning bets and providing promotional credits to customers, the sportsbooks retained $34 million as gross taxable revenue in January, down slightly from December.

The $80.4 million in revenue earned by the 13 online casinos, meanwhile, represented a 12.3% increase over the December number of $71.6 million.

The combination of unprecedented levels of iCasino and sports betting boosted overall gaming revenue in the state to $311.1 million last month, a 2.7% increase over January 2020. That increase came despite year-over-year reductions of 30% in land-based table games revenue and 26% in slots revenue, as the casinos were all closed the first three days of January and, after reopening, continued to operate under coronavirus-related restrictions.

More sportsbooks operating than ever

The continuing ascent of sports betting came in a month in which all 12 of the online sportsbooks were operating for a full month for the first time. That’s notable, in that 94.3% of the sports betting handle now comes online.

One of the two newcomers, BetMGM, was impressive in helping boost the statewide handle. The site that started in December with heavy promotion during sports broadcasts earned a fourth-place showing in the state in January, with $39.3 million in handle and 6.8% of the online market.

The top three sites remained FanDuel, with $220.7 million in handle and 38% of the online share; DraftKings, with $143.5 million in handle and 24.7% of the market; and Barstool Sportsbook, with $65 million in handle and an 11.2% share.

Barstool, operated by Penn National Gaming, stood out in a negative way, in that its handle actually declined 9.3% from December

Also, after attracting attention in December with an extraordinary 20.5% win rate – or hold – on customers’ bets, it was nowhere near that in January. The site had a 3.8% hold rate, well lower than most other sites, and its monthly revenue before credit adjustments dipped from $14.7 million to $2.5 million.

Penn National CEO Jay Snowden advised recently that monthly hold rates are subject to various factors and fluctuations, and the company was not expecting to see that unusual 20.5% rate on a customary basis.

Most Super Bowl bets to be counted in February

Statewide, the sportsbooks had a hold of 8%. After adjusting for what they gave out in promotional money to customers, the $34 million they retained amounted to a 5.5% hold. FanDuel had $14.3 million in revenue after credits and DraftKings had $7.7 million, but BetMGM only retained $414,300 because its $2.4 million in credits nearly matched its $2.8 million in gross revenue.

The January activity reflected heavy betting on the NFL playoffs, but only early wagers on the Super Bowl, which was played Feb. 7. The gaming board released figures last week showing Pennsylvanians bet $53.6 million legally on the Super Bowl, with the sportsbooks retaining $9.4 million.

The overall $615.3 million in monthly handle reflected activity at 15 retail sites now in addition to the 12 online operators.

The second new online operator, Betfred, which is in partnership with Wind Creek Bethlehem casino, actually reported a loss of $143,898 from its $1.5 million in online handle, as its credits and payouts to customers totaled more than it took in from losing wagers.

Online casino play up more than 500% since 2020

The $80.4 million in iCasino revenue broke down to $51 million coming from online slots, $26.7 million from table games, and $2.7 million from the lone poker-playing site at PokerStars.

The number of such sites now stands at 13, and demonstrating the vast growth over the past year, less than $14 million was generated from such gambling by phone and computer in January 2020.

The net effect of such online growth enabled Pennsylvania’s gaming industry overall — which also includes fantasy sports sites and truck stop video gaming terminals — to provide more revenue to the state than a year ago. That is unlike the case in most states, which are struggling to match former levels of gaming revenue in the COVID era.

The $311.1 million in total gaming revenue netted state and local governments $127.1 million from their tax share in January.

For the first time, both of the new Live! casinos in Westmoreland County and Philadelphia were part of the monthly data.

Operating all but the first three days of the month, the Westmoreland Mall mini-casino had $5.2 million in slots revenue and $874,767 in table games revenue.

The far larger Live! Philadelphia operated on a limited basis using a reservation system from Jan. 19-31 and retained $2.3 million from slots players and $1.4 million from table games.

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