PA Sports Betting Set Another Record For Handle In January, Online Wagering Nearing 90% Share

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Pennsylvania’s online and retail sportsbooks set another wagering record in January, but this time the 1.7% month-to-month increase was far more modest than in prior months.

A total of $348.4 million was bet in January on sports at the eight online and 12 physical sites, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported Wednesday. The December handle of $342.6 million had been an 8.2% increase over November.

January was the first month since early 2019 when no new online or retail sportsbooks opened to help boost the numbers. Also, based on Nevada’s longtime experience, the first month of the year traditionally experiences a drop-off in betting due to the reduced volume of NFL and college football action compared to September-December.

Revenue soared, but there’s a catch

Revenue showed enormous growth, as the Pennsylvania sportsbooks reported earning $31.6 million from bettors, including taxable revenue of $22.8 million after deduction of their promotional credits given out as betting incentives.

Both of those revenue numbers far exceeded the previous highs, but they are likely deceiving. The Super Bowl was held on Feb. 2, and while the advance betting on the game in January was reported as part of the month’s revenue, the payouts made on winning wagers will only be reflected in February’s report. In New Jersey, the sportsbooks also reported record revenue in January, even though betting volume actually decreased from the month before.

Bettors in Pennsylvania did well on the Super Bowl, the gaming board previously reported. The bettors took a net overall profit of $3.3 million from the sportsbooks when the Kansas City Chiefs, a popular betting favorite, beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20.

DraftKings deserves the credit for state’s boost

While FanDuel’s strong success since its July launch has headlined news of online betting in Pennsylvania, DraftKings became the big story in January.

DraftKings still trailed far behind its rival in betting handle, $58.7 million compared to $153.1 million for FanDuel, but it was DraftKings that showed month-to-month progress.

The Boston-based company grew its handle by 63.4% over December as it continued the strong advertising and promotional credits campaigns used since its November startup as an online affiliate of the Meadows Racetrack & Casino.

FanDuel on its own still takes half of all online wagers in the state, but its $153.1 million in handle in January was actually off almost 1% from December.

Most online sites saw even bigger declines in January, but due to the strength of DraftKings, online wagers were still up 3.8% overall and amounted to a new high share of 88.6% of all bets taken in the state. Three more online sites are expected to debut in 2020 in Pennsylvania.

The one other online site showing an increase in January was BetAmerica, the Churchill Downs sportsbook attached to Presque Isle Downs & Casino, but that was influenced by its having only operated for part of the month in December. Its $1.2 million in January handle was still the lowest among the eight online sites.

Bets taken by the other online sportsbooks, all lower than in December, totaled $28.4 million for PlaySugarHouse, $25.8 million for BetRivers, $21.3 million for Parx, $15.4 million for FOX Bet, and $4.8 million for Unibet.

Every retail site saw a drop

Retail betting in the state was down 11.8% in January, to a combined $39.8 million at the 10 casinos and two off-track betting parlors. It was the lowest retail handle since September, as every brick-and-mortar site experienced decline from December.

Rivers Philadelphia remained the handle leader, taking in $7.4 million in bets compared to $6.7 million at both its Rivers Pittsburgh sister property and the Parx Casino.

They were followed by the South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook and Harrah’s Philadelphia, both with $3 million; Valley Forge, $2.9 million; Hollywood, $2.6 million; Presque Isle, $2.3 million; Mohegan Sun Pocono, $1.9 million; Meadows, $1.6 million; Oaks Race and Sportsbook, $973,451; and Mount Airy, $732.813.

Photo by Stefan Schurr / Shutterstock.com

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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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