HARRISBURG – Despite casinos being closed for weeks due to pandemic restrictions, the state’s gambling industry had a record-breaking year in 2020-2021, fueled by online gambling, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced Monday.
Pennsylvania smashed its record for gambling revenue, state regulators said Monday, reporting nearly $3.9 billion in the last fiscal year as every category of wagering showed growth in one of the nation’s largest casino and gambling states.
Pennsylvania casinos were closed from March to June in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. They closed again in November as the COVID fall resurgence hit the state and didn’t reopen until early January.
Overall gambling revenue dropped from $3.3 billion in 2018-19, the previous all-time high, to $2.7 billion in 2019-2020.
The nearly $3.9 billion from 14 operating casinos, fantasy sports operators and truck stops for the fiscal year ending June 30 beat the previous high, two years ago, by about 17 percent and last year’s take by more than 40 percent, according to figures from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Revenue in casinos from slot machines, at just under $1.9 billion, and from table games, at $721 million, remains lower than record highs in previous years.
Other than 2019-2020, the last time the state’s casinos generated less slots revenue than they did in 2020-2021 was 2012-2013, when there were three fewer casinos, Gaming Control Board data shows.
But other, newer categories leaped to record highs.
Online casino gambling grew to nearly $900 million, in just its second year, while sports better grew to $309 million in just its third year. Pennsylvania legalized both as part of an aggressive gambling expansion in 2017.
“There is no question that the boom in online gaming is a direct result of pandemic-related restrictions on retail casinos, but there is strong evidence to suggest that the growth has real lasting power,” said Valerie Cross, an analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com, a website that tracks the gambling industry. “We have seen retail numbers bounce back to near pre-pandemic levels in Pennsylvania, Atlantic City, and elsewhere.
With casinos reopened, analysts say that there’s no obvious reason to believe that online gambling will drop off though, she said. “Online gaming revenue hasn’t missed a beat. This suggests a behavioral change in gamblers that won’t likely change much, at least in the near future,” she said.
Pennsylvania dropped behind New Jersey in traditional casino gambling revenue in 2020, eight years after it surpassed New Jersey to become the nation’s No. 2 gambling revenue state behind Nevada, according to figures compiled by the American Gaming Association.
“Betting volume typically falls over the summer, but sportsbooks tend to win more per bet on sports like golf and tennis,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for the PlayUSA.com network, which includes PlayPennsylania.com. “That really helped sportsbooks in June and will help them to continue to weather the offseason even as bettors engage less.”
Online and retail sportsbooks in Pennsylvania combined to take in $420.2 million in wagers in June, down 6.1 percent from $447.5 million in May, according to official data released Monday. Sportsbooks’ gross gaming revenue jumped to $42.5 million, though, which was up 13.6 percent from $37.4 million in May.