PA Casinos Reopen To Strong Revenue Figures Validating Views Of Pent-Up Demand

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June revenue figures just released for Pennsylvania’s partially reopened casinos show that the suggestions gamblers would have pent-up demand proved true: The casinos earned even more than a year ago per day they were open.

Eleven of the state’s 12 casinos were open, to varying degrees, during part of June after getting a reprieve from mandated COVID-19 shutdowns. Combined, they earned $74.1 million from slots and table games for the month, according to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board data released Thursday afternoon.

While that’s far less than the $267.7 million from those forms of gambling in June 2019, the casinos only had a collective 112 days of operation this June instead of 360. Also, the state’s two biggest revenue producers, Parx and Wind Creek Bethlehem, were only open two days of the month, and another large casino, Rivers Philadelphia, did not open at all.

All in all, the $74.1 million actually represented a 5.2% increase over what those casinos that were open earned for a comparable number of days in June 2019, according to a Penn Bets analysis. That could be viewed as a huge success, considering widespread limits on how they can operate and worries about whether the public would be deterred by safety and financial concerns.

At the same time, the return of brick-and-mortar casinos seems to have had a negative effect on iGaming — the 10 online casino sites combined for $50.1 million in June revenue, down 10.2% from May’s record of $55.8 million.

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The sports wagering handle saw a 14.9% boost from May, reaching $89 million in June as more sports returned to action, such as PGA golf and top European soccer leagues to complement UFC’s weekly fight cards.

Revenue at some casinos is 40% above normal

The shutdown of the state’s casino industry from mid-March through early June was extremely costly, as slots and tables normally generate some $270 million in monthly revenue, with the state claiming just over 40% of that in taxes.

The June 2019 revenue totaled $198.8 million from slots and $68.9 million from table games at the 12 venues, for a total of $267.7 million.

The state’s casinos began resuming with limited operations June 9, initially at only the Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and Meadows Racetrack & Casino, which were both in business for 22 days during the month. Others opened their doors in subsequent phases, tied to the Gov. Tom Wolf administration placing their counties in its COVID-era “green phase” guiding resumption of business activities.

Lady Luck Nemacolin was open for 19 days in June; Hollywood Casino for 12; Mohegan Sun Pocono and Mount Airy Casino Resort for nine; Harrah’s Philadelphia, Valley Forge Casino Resort, and Presque Isle Downs for five each; and Parx and Wind Creek for just two.

They all operated with a maximum occupancy limit of 50% of normal capacity, which meant most slot machines couldn’t be played side-by-side and fewer seats or positions were available at games like blackjack, craps, and roulette.

In addition, many of their restaurants remained close or offered reduced seating, and normal amenities such as clubs and events centers were off-limits. No poker rooms were open, and a reduced sports calendar and new social distancing requirements meant sportsbooks lacked much of their former attraction.

If those casinos had matched how they performed a year ago, the Penn Bets analysis estimated they would have combined for $70.5 million in slots/table revenue this June with their reduced number of days. Instead, seemingly against all odds, they made the $74.1 million.

Several of the casinos — Harrah’s, Mount Airy, and Lady Luck — exceeded by 40% or more the Penn Bets projections of what they needed to just keep at pace with last June. Valley Forge, Mohegan Sun, Hollywood, Wind Creek, and Parx also exceeded in June 2020 what they made on the same number of days a year earlier.

Rivers Pittsburgh, Meadows, and Presque Isle did not match the same per-day revenue as in June 2019, but they weren’t far behind. Rivers Philadelphia, meanwhile, is scheduled to open this Friday.

iGaming suffers as casino visits resume

Once the casinos began shutting down in March, online casino play simultaneously began soaring. The June figures suggest further such increases should not be anticipated.

The $55.8 million earned by 10 sites in May had been up 29.5% from April, but the $50.1 million in June represented the first drop of any kind in Pennsylvania’s year-old iGaming industry.

The online/mobile sites combined for $36.8 million from slots and $10 million from tables.

PokerStars, the lone poker site in the state, made $3.2 million from that game, which was down from $4.6 million in May and from its record haul of $5.3 million in April.

The gaming board’s report showed Rivers Casino Philadelphia as the top iCasino with $15 million in revenue, but that represents combined earnings from two sites: that casino’s PlaySugarhouse.com and the BetRivers.com site of Pittsburgh Rivers.

FanDuel and PokerStars were in a close competition for second in iGaming earnings, reporting $7.9 million and $7.7 million, respectively.

Sportsbooks hope turnaround is just starting

While sports betting grew in the state by nearly $12 million more wagered than in May, that’s nothing compared to what the sportsbooks are hoping will occur in coming months, unless COVID-19 concerns squash plans by the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL.

The state handle bottomed out at $46 million in April and was nearly twice that in June, but it’s nowhere near January’s $348.4 million record.

With nearly all of the betting coming online in June, FanDuel and DraftKings continued to lead other operators by a large amount, but DraftKings did not close on the leader as much as in prior months.

FanDuel’s $32.8 million in handle represented 37.2% of online wagering, while DraftKings’ $25 million made up 28.3%. The difference between them, about 9 percentage points, is a bit closer than the 10 percentage points in May.

Revenue from sports wagering amounted to nearly $8 million in the state in June, and after deducting $1.3 million in promotional credits that incentivize sports bettors, gross taxable revenue amounted to $6.7 million.

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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 [email protected].

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