October Set Oh So Many Records For Pennsylvania Gambling Activity, Including Sports Wagering

More was wagered legally than ever before on sports and online casinos, leading to an all-time revenue high despite COVID.

Buoyed by the first full month of Barstool Sportsbook’s operation, Pennsylvania set another new sports betting record in October with $525.8 million wagered.

And gross taxable revenue of $36.8 million from sports bettors helped the state’s gaming industry claim an all-time record of $320.2 million in revenue from all forms last month, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported Tuesday. It set the new high even while brick-and-mortar casinos continue to see significant year-over-year decline in slots and table games play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sports wagering totaling more than a half-billion dollars for the first time was up 13.6% over the prior record set in September, when Penn National Gaming’s new Barstool app took bets for about half the month after a highly publicized launch.

Barstool’s $61 million in digital handle in October — while significant, considering it pays for no advertising — remained well behind state leaders FanDuel, with $181 million, and DraftKings, with $121 million, though the newcomer cut into their percentages of the market.

October was another record month also for the 12 iCasinos, which claimed $59.8 million in revenue from online slots, tables, and poker, up a combined 4.8% from September.

Big betting volume was profitable for sportsbooks

Unlike some states, Pennsylvania does not break out sports betting numbers by sport, but clearly a full NFL calendar and the return of something resembling a normal NCAA football slate in October was huge for the sportsbooks.

And profitable, too.

In September, the 10 online and 12 land-based sportsbooks reported just $6.3 million in gross taxable revenue on their $462.8 million in bets, after giving away $12 million in promotional credits.

They still gave away $11.1 million in credits in October, but the taxable revenue of $36.8 million was nearly six times as high as the month before.

While Barstool and DraftKings reported in September that they actually lost money, that was no longer the case. Barstool retained $3 million from bettors’ $61 million in October wagers, and DraftKings kept $6.5 million from its $121 million. FanDuel was far ahead of both, reporting $14.7 million in taxable revenue from the $181 million wagered.

Online wagering represented nearly 90% of overall state handle, at $472.3 million, with FanDuel claiming 38.3% of that, DraftKings 25.6%, and Barstool 12.9%.

Many other states with legal sports betting also set records in October, with New Jersey posting an all-time monthly high for any state of $803.1 million. Though the Garden State is smaller than Pennsylvania, is has a longer history of legal sportsbooks and more betting sites, and it benefits from New Yorkers who cross the state line to place online wagers.

Online play just keeps increasing

Pennsylvania’s early adoption of iGaming, which came after New Jersey did so but ahead of most other states, continues to be a benefit, due to gamblers’ adjustments since COVID’s impact spread in March.

The online slots, tables, and poker play have regularly been surpassing $50 million in combined monthly revenue, and now they’re on the cusp of $60 million. Of that, $40.3 million in October was from online slots play, $17 million from table games, and $2.4 million from the one poker site offered by PokerStars.

BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse, the combined sites of Rush Street Interactive, reported $16.6 million in revenue, with the iCasinos of DraftKings ($11 million) and FanDuel ($10 million) competing closely with one another as the next largest sites.

Physical casinos still lag behind last year’s numbers

Pennsylvania had so little online sports betting and online casino play available a year ago, by comparison, that they explain why last month’s gaming revenue of $320.2 million from all sources was up 12.9% from October 2019. The previous record month for gaming revenue was $316.3 million in March 2019.

The total tax revenue for the month from all forms of gaming — which also includes fantasy sports contests and truck stop VGTs — added up to $130.1 million.

The online expansion more than makes up for a slide in traditional gambling, as casinos continue living with the public’s COVID concerns and state-mandated restrictions on their occupancy and ability to allow smoking, serve alcohol, or provide other amenities. Five poker rooms have reopened in recent weeks, but with more limited play than is customary, and they provide minimal revenue regardless compared to other forms of gambling.

The 12 casinos’ retail slots revenue of $154.7 million in October was off 17.2% from a year ago, and table games revenue of $63.3 million was down 13.4%. There had been fears before casinos reopened in June, however, that the impact from COVID would be even worse than that.

What lies ahead for the industry is a little uncertain, as reflected in a Monday order by the city of Philadelphia. It will shut down Rivers Casino Philadelphia like many other public gathering places in the city for the rest of the year starting Friday, due to the COVID case spike.

At the same time, the Live! Pittsburgh mini-casino in Westmoreland County is to open next Tuesday, and its larger Live! counterpart in Philadelphia is to be completed in early 2021.

Officials industry-wide are undoubtedly hoping the Wolf administration won’t find it necessary to impose new statewide closures along the lines of what Philadelphia is doing, but in this COVID era, nothing is certain.


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