PA Gaming Industry Didn’t Set Any Records In February, But Many Aspects Held Up Well

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February’s cold climate, short calendar, and post-Super Bowl lull in sports betting ordinarily brings a chill to revenue gathered in Pennsylvania’s gaming industry, and last month was no exception.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released data Tuesday afternoon showing the total sports betting handle of $509.5 million in February was off 17.2% from January’s record high. Taxable revenue of $16.4 million from it was less than half the prior month’s amount.

The state’s iCasinos collected $77.8 million in revenue in February, down 3.2% from January’s record, although the earnings held up well on a per-day basis in the shorter month.

And with COVID-related concerns still putting a damper on brick-and-mortar visits and revenue, slots and table games revenue both declined a little more than 25% from a year ago.

Overall, gaming revenue from all sources still surpassed the healthy $300 million benchmark and provided state and local governments $122.9 million in tax revenue.

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The $302 million from casinos, iCasinos, sportsbooks, fantasy sports contests, and truck stop VGTs was 0.8% less than in February 2020, which was the last month before the effects of the coronavirus began hammering land-based industry revenue.

Barstool, Betfred were winners … or not

February is normally not a great month for sportsbook activity because the heaviest betting sport — football — ends after the Super Bowl, which was played this year on Feb. 7.

Prior data released by the gaming board showed $53.6 million was wagered legally in Pennsylvania on the big game. Betting on the Super Bowl thus represented more than 10% of all sports wagers in the state last month.

Online/mobile betting through 12 sites made up 92.2% of the month’s wagers, and only two operators took more action in February than they did the month before. Interestingly, both of those reported losing money due to promotional giveaways that exceeded the revenue they won from losing bettors.

The Barstool Sportsbook of Penn National Gaming took $65.6 million in bets compared to $65 million in January. It collected $5.1 million from losing bettors, but due to $5.8 million in credits given out, Barstool reported a loss of $726,040.

The Betfred sportsbook, a partner of Wind Creek Bethlehem, reported $1.7 million in handle, up 17.4% from its first full month in January. Its giveaways, however, exceeded its revenue by $167,033.

The competition to attract Super Bowl bettors was no doubt a factor in the unusually high number of promotional credits statewide, which totaled $16.8 million. That number reduced the taxable revenue figure from sports betting in the state to $16.4 million from the $33.2 million it would have otherwise been.

The other market leaders besides Barstool, which had 14% of the online handle, were among those seeing big betting drops in February from January:

  • FanDuel’s $176.3 million in handle was down 20.1%, leaving it a 37.5% share of the market.
  • DraftKings had $111.7 million in handle, down 22.2%, for a 23.8% share.
  • BetMGM took $33.7 million in bets, down 14.2%, for a 7.2% share.

Online casinos may regularly match $80 million

With the addition of the online Borgata Casino of BetMGM on Feb. 24, the state now has 14 iCasinos enabling gamblers to use phones or computers to play slots, table games, or — for one site — poker.

Their monthly revenue added up to $50.6 million from slots, $24.7 million from tables, and $2.5 million from PokerStars for its peer-to-peer poker. The combined revenue averaged $2.78 million per day, a small increase from January’s $2.59 million despite an overall monthly total that shrank by $2.6 million.

The figures suggest that while the state’s combined sites had settled in for stable monthly revenue of nearly $60 million during much of 2020, the new benchmark for 2021 is likely to be $80 million or more.

Because multiple iCasino operators can be attached to a single licensed casino in Pennsylvania, and the gaming board’s reports do not distinguish revenue from each operator, it can be hard to identify which sites are actually the most popular in the state.

For instance, the board reported $28 million in revenue collected by Penn National’s Hollywood Casino, but that’s actually from three different sites: Hollywood, DraftKings, and BetMGM.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia is listed with $18 million, but that’s also from three sites: its own PlaySugarHouse, its sister BetRivers site, and Borgata Casino.

Live! casinos now adding to land-based revenue

In February, the 14 casinos in the state were still laboring under alcohol restrictions that are to be lifted April 4, according to an announcement by Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday. Those restrictions, along with an indoor smoking ban, social distancing requirements, capacity limits, amenity shutdowns, and the public’s general concerns about engaging in large group settings have all contributed to brick-and-mortar revenue decline.

The good news for statewide revenue was an uptick in slots and table games activity in February compared to January, when casinos were open the same number of days, 28, due to early-January shutdown orders.

Slots revenue totaled $145.9 million compared to $140.7 million in January, though the total was down 27% from February 2020.

Table games revenue in the casinos amounted to $57.4 compared to $50.8 million in January, but itself was down 25.9% from February 2020.

One factor — or two — in why things may be looking up: The two new Live! casino properties in Philadelphia and Westmoreland County are gaining momentum.

Live! Philadelphia made $10.5 million from slots and $4.9 million from tables last month. In January, it was only open part of the month and on a limited basis, and it should benefit from this point forward from fans again being allowed into nearby sports venues.

Live! Pittsburgh, as the Cordish Gaming Group mini-casino at Westmoreland Mall is known, had $5.4 million in slots revenue and $775,442 from tables in February.

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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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