PA Sportsbooks Saw Drop In Betting Action For First Time Since May

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Pennsylvania’s young sportsbook industry experienced its first month-over-month decline in betting handle in nine months in February, with wagers of $329.8 million down 5.3% from January.

The dropoff was to be expected, both due to the fewer days in the month and the end of the busy football betting season — save for the Super Bowl itself.

The February figures released Wednesday afternoon by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board showed the Super Bowl helped prop up betting action to near January’s record level of $348.4 million, but the same could not be said for any revenue boost.

Revenue was down far more than handle

The eight online sportsbooks and 12 more in retail settings combined for $11.4 million in revenue for the month, compared to $31.6 million in January. The sportsbooks’ take was dampened by payouts they had to make after the Super Bowl for bets that had been placed on the game in January, and also by the fact that they lost money on it.

The gaming board previously reported that bettors, who heavily backed the victorious Kansas City Chiefs, profited by $3.3 million in Pennsylvania from overall betting volume of $30.7 million on the Super Bowl.

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The sportsbooks actually retained less than $11.4 million in revenue for the month, as they gave away a combined $6.7 million in promotional credits to help attract bettors. That left them just $4.7 million in gross taxable revenue, the lowest amount since July.

DraftKings surges for second straight month

The best piece of news for the month belonged to DraftKings, which once again surged in handle and continued gaining on FanDuel in their competitive battle for online bettors.

DraftKings’ handle of $72.3 million was 23.2% above its January volume. That pushed it up to one-fourth of the online market from 19% the month before.

FanDuel remained the state’s sports betting leader despite a dropoff for the second straight month. With $138.5 million in handle, down 9.5% from January, it took 47.1% of the online bets.

Of the other six online sites in the state, the only other one to gain in handle from the month before was BetAmerica, though it remained the smallest online site with $1.4 million in bets.

Overall, online sports wagers amounted to $294.1 million, down 4.7% from the month before but still representing 89.2% of the state’s total volume.

Pennsylvania gained one new online site in March, the Caesars Casino & Sportsbook of Harrah’s Philadelphia. It had the misfortune to launch March 10, in the same week that every significant professional and collegiate sporting event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the retail side, no one gained

As was the case the month before, every retail betting site in the state saw a drop in handle. Overall, retail sports wagers amounted to $35.6 million, off 10.4% from January.

The retail leader remained Rivers Philadelphia, with $7.2 million in handle, followed by Rivers Pittsburgh, with $6 million, and Parx, with $5.9 million.

The state gained a 13th retail site March 2, at the Allentown area OTB site of Mohegan Sun Pocono, known as The Downs at Lehigh Valley.

While February represented a rare slide in sports betting in Pennsylvania since its arrival in November 2018, that will be nothing compared to figures to be reported a month from now for the month of March. Normally a heavy betting month because of March Madness, the widespread cancellation of the sporting calendar on top of casino shutdowns due to the coronavirus is dealing the sportsbooks a severe blow.

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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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