Sports betting volume in Pennsylvania rebounded in March to its second highest level ever, but the month’s big gambling story was the amount of money people spent playing slots and table games by phone and computer.
The 14 legal iCasinos in the state recorded $97.7 million in revenue last month, crushing the January record of $80.4 million, according to data the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board posted on its website late Thursday.
The internet gaming revenue, which brought $40.9 million in state and local taxes, was also 25.6% higher than February’s $77.8 million in revenue from online casinos.
March has three more days in it than February, but that alone wouldn’t explain the surge in gambling from home seen last month. One likely factor was the first full month of operation in Pennsylvania by BetMGM’s online Borgata Casino.
It also could have had something to do with the $1,400 stimulus checks received in the second half of March by many Pennsylvanians. Those funds possibly played a role as well in gamblers returning to casinos in their biggest numbers since the pandemic struck a year ago, as slots revenue within the 14 casinos totaled $199.3 million in March, up 36.6% from February.
Taxable gross revenue from sports betting, meanwhile, totaled $29.4 million on the handle of $560.3 million wagered last month. That compared with $16.4 million in revenue from handle of $509.6 million in February.
The iCasinos are cash cows compared to sportsbooks
In the time since 2017 legislation enabled a broad expansion of legalized gambling in Pennsylvania, much of the attention has been on sports betting, since that is advertised and discussed so widely.
The truth, however, is that online casino play is far more lucrative for gaming operators and the state. That was evident in full year data for 2020 that showed the iCasinos generating $565.8 million in revenue, compared to $189.7 million brought in from sports betting.
That ratio of 3:1 between the two forms of gambling was expanded upon in March, with the $97.7 million from iCasinos dwarfing the $29.4 million gamblers lost on sports wagering.
The online casino play, which Pennsylvania is still one of just a few states to legalize, broke down as $66.4 million operators earned from slots play; $28.9 million from table games such as blackjack and roulette; and $2.4 million from poker at PokerStars, which is still the sole site providing that peer-to-peer game.
The gaming board’s data does not distinguish how much is earned by each one of the 14 sites in the state, as it meshes together revenue from multiple sites that can share a casino’s license.
The online Borgata Casino is part of the license for Rivers Philadelphia, which also holds the skins for the PlaySugarHouse and BetRivers iCasino sites of Rush Street Interactive. The difference Borgata made by operating for a full month, instead of just a few days in February, was reflected in the March report for Rivers Philadelphia’s revenue totaling $27.1 million, up from $18 million the month before.
That still trailed the $33.6 million earned in the month by the three sites sharing Penn National’s license: Hollywood Casino, DraftKings, and BetMGM Online Casino. They had combined for $28 million in February.
Madness helped boost the sportsbooks
March Madness played a key role in driving bettors to the sportsbooks in big numbers last month after their activity had slowed down in February. Unlike some states, Pennsylvania does not break down betting volume by sports category, but the combined games of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are known to attract more wagering than the Super Bowl.
So while the $560.3 million wagered was still shy of January’s record of $615.3 million, it was 10% above February’s total for sportsbooks. The online/mobile wagers taken by 12 sites represented 91.8% of the monthly total.
Of those, FanDuel had a particularly good month, further cementing its longtime status as the state’s most popular and successful site. Its online handle of $202.8 million was up 15% from the month before and gave it 39.4% of the online market. Its taxable revenue, after discounting for promotions, amounted to $10.4 million.
The top three contenders to FanDuel in the handle rankings:
- DraftKings: $116.6 million in handle (up 4.4% from the month before), with 22.7% of the market and $6 million in revenue.
- Barstool: $63.6 million in handle (down 3% from February), with 12.4% of the market and $3.3 million in revenue.
- BetMGM: $37.4 million in handle (up 11%), with 7.3% of the market and $1.7 million in revenue.
Barstool’s decline in handle was unusual, in that nearly every other sportsbook reported an increase in March. On the positive side, by reducing its volume of promotional credits from $5.8 million to $2.9 million, that site from Penn National Gaming was able to avoid February’s experience of showing a net revenue loss.