In the present heap of storm clouds, finding a silver lining isn’t easy. Especially for those in the gaming industry. In Pennsylvania, the positive news from the March gaming revenue report comes from online casinos, which set new records for revenue ($24.3 million) and total play.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reports that overall gaming revenue was down 51% month-over-month with land-based casinos shuttered since March 17. Sports betting handle in PA dropped 60%, bringing in $131.3 million in March.
The closing of all 12 of Pennsylvania’s brick-and-mortar casinos for coronavirus concerns has, however, spurred more interest in iGaming. Online casino revenue was up 24.5% over its previous high of $19.5 million in February. Slots and table games accounted for 19.7% of that increase, while a record online poker month made up the rest.
Perhaps more telling of the recent iGaming growth in PA is the drastic increase in total wagers month-over-month. March saw by far the most online slots and table games wagers to date with $871.6 million. That represents a 23.9% increase in play over the $703,559,106 wagered in February. Slots did the heavy lifting, rising 51.5% while amount bet at the tables increased 8.2%.
The recent surge in online casino action – and revenue – is a good sign for the relatively young market. However, it is a small victory within the current economic thrashing most operators are experiencing.
PA online casinos off and running
The biggest piece of silver lining is perhaps that Pennsylvania is home to online casinos. As all of the commercial casinos in the United States remain closed, only four states including Pennsylvania have any legalized form of iGaming.
PA may have been slow to get out of the gate with high tax rates and limited libraries of games, but online casinos are now hitting full stride.
While there’s still some room for growth in terms of competition, the PA market is just about saturated. There are now eight online casinos in the Commonwealth, with Caesars expected to join the fray soon.
Perhaps most significant for the market’s recent growth prior to March was the FanDuel Casino launch.
It provided a surge for overall online gaming play and revenue, but especially for table games, which previously trailed much further behind online slots in terms of revenue. Total casino revenue in March broke down to $12.4 million from slots and $8.8 million from tables.
PA online casino growth
A full look at online casino revenue growth since its inception in July can be seen here.
|Casino||July 2019||Aug. 2019||Sept. 2019||Oct. 2019||Nov. 2019||Dec. 2019||Jan. 2020||Feb. 2020||March 2020|
|SugarHouse and BetRivers* (Rivers Philly)||$422,796||$1,648,426||$1,068,683||$2,532,099||$3,171,762||$2,970,222||$3,549,970||$4,755,592||$6,757,345|
|Hollywood Casino (Penn National Race Course)||$129,386||$684,452||$1,797,020||$1,800,648||$1,867,657||$1,692,797||$2,405,023||$2,315,459||$2,618,503|
|PokerStars Casino (Mount Airy Casino)||$1,023,637||$1,559,057||$1,322,829||$1,393,103||$2,830,694|
|Unibet (Mohegan Sun Pocono)||$131,415||$406,445||$786,447||$723,229||$803,000|
|FanDuel Casino (Valley Forge)||$2,081,252||$6,053,007||$4,969,253|
|BetAmerica Casino (Presque Isle Downs)||$9,898||$67,575||$425,878|
*Note: BetRivers Casino revenue figures are included with PlaySugarHouse as they are sister sites under the Rivers Philly online casino license.
FanDuel Casino key to iGaming growth
FanDuel’s online casino launched in January and immediately claimed the top spot for table games play. Only live for eight days in January, $84.7 million was wagered at FanDuel’s interactive tables, earning $1.7 million in gross revenue.
In its first full month (February), slot play at FanDuel reached $40 million while table games handle jumped to $238 million. Revenue reached nearly $6.1 million. March kept pace in terms of wagers with slots bringing in $43.8 million in bets and tables down slightly at $206.8 million.
That translated to nearly $5 million in revenue, $4 million of which was from table games. FanDuel’s table games wagers represented 42.5% of the total $485.7 million across all PA gambling sites for March.
The lower tax rate on table games of 16% as compared to 54% for online slots is part of the equation for FanDuel’s high revenue.
No signs of slowing down
Despite having the smallest game library in Pennsylvania, FanDuel established itself as the far-and-away leader of PA online casinos. In early April, they added bacarrat, Game King Video Poker and popular land-based slot titles to their library.
FanDuel’s Director of Publicity Kevin Hennessy commented on the iGaming products rise and additions:
“Our casino product is seamlessly integrated into our sportsbook app which adds value to the #1 Sportsbook in PA. We promised to add new games when we launched to offer a more robust casino product for our customers. We are glad to be ahead of schedule with our additions.”
Despite their late entry to the market, FanDuel Casino has proven to be spot-on with their timing. When asked if FanDuel casino had seen an increase week-over-week since live casino closures, Hennessy said “Yes.”
Online poker thriving in PA too, despite a single operator
The nascent online poker market in PA consists of one operator, and PokerStars PA has been capitalizing on that fact. Revenue has been strong and steady for online poker since its November debut.
March brought even more action. With live poker rooms closed and many people staying home, online poker experienced a surge. PokerStars’ record $3.1 million in revenue for March reflects that increase, and April is sure to bring an even bigger boost.
The site is currently running its biggest tournament series to date in the US, with $2 million in prize pools guaranteed from April 4 – April 20. The remaining PASCOOP schedule is available here.
The following is a breakdown of PokerStars PA revenue and taxes collected since launch.
|Month||Revenue (Rake & Tournament Fees)||State & Local Tax (16%)|
Big picture for PA casino revenue
The economic effects of pandemic closures and cancellations unfortunately seem to be in their early stages. March numbers were significantly affected, and that is with closures for just half the month. With no hint yet of possible re-openings, casino operators have to brace for more damage.
Thousands of casino workers have been furloughed or laid off and daily losses for gaming operators can number in the millions, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. PA-based Penn National has taken drastic measures to curb its cash losses, and others have made similar moves.
Halted cash flows also mean lost revenue for state and local entities. The city of Bethlehem estimates it is missing out on $800,000 every month that Wind Creek is closed, according to Lehighvalleylive.com. The effects ripple across the state to other cities and towns which are home to PA casinos.
As the storm continues to rage, states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware can take solace in the small silver lining of online casinos which still brings in some gaming revenue during the nationwide casino shutdown.
In the grand scheme of things, it won’t be enough to offset the great losses gaming companies are taking. But it certainly helps.