July Brought Pennsylvania A Lot More Casino Revenue And A New Online Gaming Site

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July took on the appearance of a strong rebound month for Pennsylvania’s casino industry, with brick-and-mortar properties claiming perhaps three-quarters of their normal revenue and the state gaining an 11th iGaming site.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole gave a brief presentation during the board’s monthly meeting, held by conference phone call Wednesday, at which he noted there has been “relatively good” patron activity at the 12 reopened casinos.

In addition, he gave the first public indication that Wind Creek Bethlehem in July joined the ranks of other casinos offering online slots and table games. The online casino obtained its permanent approval July 24 after several days of testing.

Preliminary revenue figures point to $200 million-plus

The gaming board will not release July revenue figures for casinos until Aug. 17, at the earliest. O’Toole said preliminary estimates, however, suggest casinos last month made about 80% of the slots revenue they did a year ago, and 70% of the table games revenue.

In July 2019, when there were no COVID-19 health concerns imposing all kinds of restrictions on casino operations, commercial gaming in the state produced $281.5 million in revenue, with $116.8 million of that diverted to state and local taxes.

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The casinos’ combined slots revenue in July 2019 was $200 million, and 80% of that would be $160 million in possible revenue this July. Due to capacity limits and social distancing requirements, far fewer slot machines were in operation last month than the nearly 25,000 in 2019.

Table games revenue in July 2019 amounted to $77 million, and the 70% figure casinos apparently reached last month would be $54 million.

That potential July slots and table revenue of $214 million came after casinos earned nothing at their properties in April and May and just $74.1 million from slots and tables in June, when the 12 gambling venues were collectively in operation on fewer than one-third of the days.

While July’s revenue will still be far less than a year ago, the casinos also have substantially lower operating costs, due to cutbacks in their workforce and in various amenities.

Given all the uncertainties that surrounded their return from shutdowns of three months or more, the casinos’ executives presumably would be happy to be obtaining some 75% of their former revenue, particularly in light of new state restrictions on smoking and alcohol sales that affect patronage.

Wind Creek quietly went online weeks ago

The state gaming board, while it monitors the startup of new online casino sites during a test period, generally leaves it up to the casinos themselves to announce such launches.

Wind Creek Bethlehem evidently made no announcement itself when it began its play.windcreekcasino.com site the week of July 20.

Wind Creek paid a $10 million licensing fee to be among the state’s casinos with iGaming, which can also include online poker, although Wind Creek’s site does not yet offer that. (The PokerStars site currently offers the only legal way to play poker online for money in Pennsylvania.)

Wind Creek officials did not respond immediately Wednesday to a request for information concerning the site, but a check of play.windcreekcasino.com showed a menu of 77 slots options. The site contains three versions of blackjack and roulette, while also offering baccarat and video poker.

As a bonus for new customers, it advertises a first deposit match of up to $400.

Online casino revenue in the state spiked substantially after more people began staying at home due to COVID-19’s impact, and the 10 sites operating in June collectively earned $50.1 million in revenue.

The addition of Wind Creek’s site will presumably help drive that revenue still higher in the future, in addition to still-unscheduled starts expected soon from BetMGM and the Live! casino.

Live dealer games apparently coming soon

One facet of their operations that could drive online casino revenue still higher soon is the addition of games like blackjack and roulette being run by live dealers in a studio who can interact with the players.

Those live dealer games, highly popular among New Jersey’s online casinos, are evidently coming soon to Pennsylvania, as the gaming board granted licensing approval Wednesday to a main provider of them: Evolution New Jersey LLC.

Spokespersons for the gaming board and Evolution had no comments to offer Wednesday, however, about when such games might be starting and on which sites.

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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 gary@usbets.com.

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