PA Saw Record Gaming Month In April Despite Drop In Online Casino Play And Sports Betting

The rebound of the land-based casino industry is now compensating for the halt of the increase in online gambling.
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Sports betting and iCasino gambling both saw a decline in volume in Pennsylvania in April from the month before, but the state saw another record month for gaming revenue overall of $404.1 million.

The continuing rebound of land-based casino operations — a national trend that has been boosted in Pennsylvania by the addition of two new venues since November — compensated in April for the monthly decline in online gambling.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released the new revenue figures Tuesday showing a monthly sports betting handle of $479.4 million, down 14.4% from March. Sports betting revenue was $26.3 million, off from $29.4 million the month before.

Online casino revenue of $92.7 million was the second best ever, but off $5 million, or 5.1%, from the March record.

Retail slots revenue of $201.4 million and table games revenue of $77.8 million, meanwhile, both represented modest improvements over both the month before and the comparable month of April 2019. In April 2020, no casinos were open due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total tax revenue for the state from all those forms of gaming — plus smaller-level fantasy sports activity and truck stop VGTs — added up to $165.8 million.

April sports betting decline was expected

April typically sees a decline in the level of sports betting, as March is fueled by the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the months before it by the Super Bowl and the rest of NFL action. It could be September before there is any substantial uptick from current activity.

The April volume of $479.4 million was the lowest in Pennsylvania since the $462.8 million wagered last September. The state has added additional online operators since then, with the current total of 12 representing 91.6% of the overall April betting handle.

While FanDuel remains by far the leader among those dozen in both betting handle and revenue, it actually saw an unusually large decline in usage by the betting public. Its $167.6 million in online handle was down 17.4% from the month before, compared to a statewide decline of 14.6% in online sports betting. That knocked FanDuel’s share of the online market down to 38.2% from 39.4% in March. Still, its taxable revenue of $11.1 million was more than double that of its closest competitor.

And that No. 2 competitor was, as usual, DraftKings, with $105.8 million in handle, $5.4 million in revenue, and a 24.1% online market share.

Penn National Gaming’s Barstool Sportsbook suffered financially, meanwhile, with its second revenue-losing month of the last three, as a result of promotional credits given away exceeding the amount won from bettors. The reported loss was $102,568 on $57.2 million in wagers (a 13% market share).

BetMGM had $33 million in handle, $1.1 million in revenue, and a 7.5% market share.

Interestingly, it was three small operators — Betfred, Caesars, and TwinSpires (formerly known as BetAmerica) — that each increased betting handle last month, though their combined betting volume was still less than $7 million.

With the new amount bet on sports in Pennsylvania in April, the total such wagering since the first sportsbook opened in November 2018 now exceeds $7 billion, with $4.7 billion of that coming in the current fiscal year that began in July. The taxable revenue for the sportsbooks since July is nearly $247 million, with almost $89 million of it siphoned as state and local taxes.

iCasino decline came despite new sites

The state added a 15th iCasino site with Boyd Gaming/Valley Forge Casino Resort launching the Stardust casino April 19, in partnership with FanDuel. It also gained a new online poker operator with BetMGM’s April 27 joint launch of peer-to-peer card games on both its iCasino site and the affiliated Borgata iCasino site.

The additions could not match the March iCasino record of $97.7 million, although April’s $92.7 million was well above all other prior months.

The manner in which Pennsylvania’s gaming board reports iCasino revenue — with a single casino having potential “skin” partnerships with multiple other online operators — makes it hard to pinpoint how individual sites are doing or progressing from prior months.

The multiple sites under the Hollywood Casino/Penn National license (Hollywood, DraftKings, BetMGM) did retain their position as the top revenue generator, with $33.8 million. Sites affiliated with Rivers Philadelphia/Rush Street (PlaySugarHouse, BetRivers, Borgata) again held the second spot with $26.6 million earned from bettors last month.

With only a few days of operation, it was early yet for the BetMGM poker sites to show any notable revenue. They combined for just over $27,000 compared to $2.3 million for PokerStars, which had for more than a year been the sole legal poker site online in Pennsylvania.

The state also now has a 16th iCasino, through Penn National adding casino games to its Barstool Sportsbook platform on May 3, but no revenue figures from it will be reported until next month.

Relaxed restrictions mean more activity in casinos

The 14 walk-in casinos in the state undoubtedly got a boost April 4 from the removal of COVID-related restrictions on alcohol service that had been in place since last summer, and now they are looking forward to additional relaxation of capacity and social distancing standards on May 31. They also have leeway now to lift mask-wearing requirements for guests and employees.

All of that combined has the casinos on a positive revenue trajectory after suffering in 2020, when COVID-19 shut down their land-based operations in the state for one-third of the year.

Their $201.4 million in slots play revenue in April came from combined operation of about 20,000 machines. While there were two fewer casinos in April 2019, when $200.4 million in slots revenue was generated, the 12 in existence at the time actually had at least 5,000 more slot machines cumulatively in use, as none had to be shut down due to social distancing requirements.

Similarly, there was lesser potential for table games revenue last month because of social distancing, but the $77.8 million made was slightly better than the $77.4 million in April 2019.

The operators are no doubt hoping this is just the start of a steady stream of progress in returning to pre-pandemic levels, as they have just begun restoring some of their amenities and entertainment that had been dormant for the past year.

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