Pennsylvania Casinos Report Brutal October Ahead Of Sports Betting Launch

Gamblers crushed Pennsylvania slots and table games in a year-over-year comparison, handing the casinos a big decline in table game winnings.
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On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) released revenue figures for the month of October. It was a brutal month collectively for the 12 brick-and-mortar casinos in a year-over-year comparison.

The casinos won $66.5 million from table games, a drop of 8.1% compared to the $72.4 million won in October 2017. Earlier this month, the PGCB posted slot revenue for October. Winnings from the machines fell 1.7% year-over-year, going from $189.5 million in October 2017 to $186.2 million last month.

Combined, the roughly 25,400 slot machines and 1,200 table games generated $252.7 million in winnings, down 3.5% compared to $261.9 million last year.

‘Volatile’ table games

PennBets contacted a spokesperson for the PGCB about the revenue figures. The official chalked up the 8.1% table games dip as the vertical simply being “volatile.” In other words, the state’s regulatory body believes it was just bad luck for the casinos.

Last month’s $66.5 million was only the third time in two years that table game winnings fell below the $70 million mark. It was also the worst month for the tables since $66.3 million was generated statewide in February 2017. However, it’s worth noting that the February 2017 performance was only a 2.7% year-over-year drop.

In other words, it’s fair to call last month one of the worst in recent memory for the tables at Keystone State casinos, which began offering the games in 2010.

Time will tell if it’s merely volatility or the beginning of a larger trend. Table game revenue has now fallen year-over-year in four consecutive months.

Revenue from table games in Atlantic City brick-and-mortars is also not growing, and out west, Nevada’s tables are hurting as well.

Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are home to the nation’s three largest commercial casino gambling industries, respectively.

Sands hit the hardest

The biggest loser in October was Sands Bethlehem, which saw its total gaming revenue plunge 11.3% from $43.5 million to $38.6 million. The casino’s tables were down 15.9%, going from $19.1 million in October 2017 to $16.1 million last month.

It’s been a rough 2018 for Sands. Though October, the casino had about $18.5 million less in total winnings than it did during the same period in 2017.

Sands and Parx Casino are by far the top properties in the state in terms of gaming win. Total take for Parx grew 4.1% last month to $47.1 million. Its table games were up 9% to $15 million.

Through October, winnings for Parx were about $27 million more than during the same period last year.

The two casinos are about 45 miles apart, but traffic can obviously make it feel like much further. Parx does have the privilege of being much closer to Philadelphia.

Is New Jersey taking Pennsylvania gaming dollars?

The Garden State kicked off sports betting in mid-June. Since July, Pennsylvania’s casino gambling market has contracted in three of the four months, while New Jersey’s total gaming revenue has grown by double-digit percentages every month.

PA’s casino market had already been in stagnation prior to New Jersey’s launch of sportsbooks, but it clearly hasn’t helped that gamblers can find legal and regulated sports betting across the state line. Through October, the Keystone State casino gambling market was about $2.7 billion, virtually unchanged compared to the revenue generated during the first 10 months of 2017.

For its part, the PGCB doesn’t believe that the revenue declines in recent months can be attributed to sports betting being available across the border in New Jersey. The spokesperson called the comparison between New Jersey and Pennsylvania “apples and oranges.”

“Anytime you put a new amenity into a casino, the hope is that foot traffic increases and has a positive impact on all revenue,” the spokesperson said.

Pennsylvania sports betting just went live on the same day the October revenue figures were released, with Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course starting a soft launch of its William Hill-managed sportsbook on November 15. Testing is expected to continue on November 16 before the book officially opens at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Under state law, sports betting revenue will be taxed at 36%. Time will tell how large the market can get with such a hefty chunk cut out, but clearly the state sees a sportsbook as an amenity rather than a cash cow.

Satellite casinos

In addition to the upcoming launch of online casino and sports betting, Pennsylvania’s gambling market should receive a shot in the arm by five satellite casinos coming to locations in the state that aren’t close to the action at the existing 12 brick-and-mortars.

All the sites were selected as of October 31. Ground will be broken on the projects upon regulatory approval.

The so-called “mini casinos” can be equipped with up to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games.

Total October revenue

CasinoSlotsSlots Y/YTable GamesTable Games Y/YTotal Win
Sands Bethlehem$22,470,291.61-7.67%$16,142,904-15.90%$38,613,196
The Rivers$22,021,532.843.60%$6,171,09010.86%$28,192,623
Mohegan Sun$15,520,673.14-5.79%$2,612,798-18.82%$18,133,471
Penn National$15,328,381.07-6.88%$2,778,732-2.54%$18,107,113
Mount Airy$12,071,147.19-0.83%$3,121,228-39.89%$15,192,375
Valley Forge$7,353,166.773.30%$3,400,94429.63%$10,754,111
Presque Isle$9,383,905.681.63%$1,214,20616.78%$10,598,112
Month Totals$186,255,5560.42%$66,534,321-4.36%$252,789,877

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