Pennsylvania Already A Major Player On The Worldwide Online Casino Stage

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Even the most cosmopolitan and experienced gaming industry expert, if asked to name the top five regulated online casino markets in the world, would most likely whiff on this one: Pennsylvania.

Only one year after the Keystone State entered the legal online casino world, Vixio Gambling Compliance recently listed it as having achieved that top tier status.

The United Kingdom and Italy, not surprisingly, lead the way, with New Jersey — which had a six-year head start on Pennsylvania in such gambling — grabbing the third spot.

Gambling Compliance then places Pennsylvania just behind Sweden, but ahead of two other European countries — Denmark and Spain (with a minor caveat that data from Spain is months behind).

Online casino gaming, of course, is an industry that has gained traction while brick-and-mortar casinos across the U.S. have suffered through months of closings — a shuttering that continues in New York.

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Pennsylvania’s neighbor also thriving

Pennsylvania, with a population of roughly 13 million, had its online casino industry experience gross revenue of $50.1 million in June — more than twice as much as in March — even with some major sports resuming play by then as a temptation for gamblers to divert their resources.

“The mix of urban and more remote casinos scattered through Pennsylvania are more closely aligned with typical regional U.S. casino markets outside of Nevada and New Jersey, where casino-resorts are clustered in Atlantic City and rely on out-of-state visitors for a significant chunk of their gaming revenues,” according to Gambling Compliance.

Of course, that’s not much of an issue with online casino gaming (though players would have to be within New Jersey state boundaries to gamble on one of the approved websites).

In the first half of 2020, Atlantic City’s nine casinos split $422.7 million in online casino gaming revenue — a 99.4% rise from the first six months of 2019.

New Jersey, with a population of 9 million, is generating about two-thirds of the online casino revenue of Italy, a country of 60 million residents, according to Gambling Compliance’s data.

What COVID-19 means for the industry

Lawmakers in many states seem to have noticed the allure of mobile sports betting, which is producing much-needed, if modest, tax revenue during a pandemic.

What’s next?

“A clear shift in consumer spend in the post-coronavirus months will likely have reminded stakeholders and lawmakers in states yet to regulate online casino games of their value as a substitute for COVID-impacted traditional gaming, as well as an enabler of sports-gaming cross-sell,” Gambling Compliance notes.

“The comparatively glacial state-by-state regulation of iGaming across the U.S. relative to sports betting has meant that sports wagering has figured more prominently in industry coverage and the value propositions of online betting and gaming specialists seeking to capitalize on the highly-prized U.S. market.

“An emerging theory posits that states will be more willing to embrace online gambling in the post-COVID era and the early performance of Pennsylvania in particular suggests that U.S. online casino could become a multi-billion-dollar opportunity in its own right even with a more limited rollout than sports betting.”

Who’s next into the pool

West Virginia and Michigan last year became the fifth and sixth states to legalize iGaming products, and West Virginia last month joined New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as Delaware and Nevada in making it available (though Nevada only offers online poker, which produces little more than a rounding error of revenue out of New Jersey’s total, for instance).

Michigan officials are currently working on finalizing regulations for both online casinos and sports wagering, although the cancellation of Big 10 fall football on Tuesday and the possibility of delayed or canceled NFL action takes some of the urgency away.

“Uncertainty persists regarding the extent of re-substitution to land-based venues exiting devastating coronavirus-induced shutdowns,” according to Gambling Compliance. “Still, the performance of Pennsylvania and New Jersey means industry stakeholders can be forgiven a bullish outlook when piecing together the medium-term U.S. iGaming opportunity.”

Photo provided by Shutterstock

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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