Table tennis couldn’t paddle the ship of Pennsylvania’s sports betting handle.
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on nearly every sector and aspect of life. Sports betting in Pennsylvania is no exception. With no March Madness and suspended NBA and NHL seasons, PA sportsbooks’ handle for March was $131.3 million.
It’s a staggering 60% drop from $329 million in February. Sportsbooks did manage to produce $6.9 million in revenue. One thing that did remain consistent is that the majority of wagers, about 90%, were placed online.
FanDuel Sportsbook remains the market leader with handle of $53.6 million and $2.7 million in revenue in March.
Coronavirus burns the books
The 2020 NCAA Tournament was set to be the first time that sports bettors in PA could wager online on March Madness. Instead, table tennis was the top draw and still holds bettors’ interest. Cancellations crippled PA sportsbooks‘ offerings to major sports during what was set up to be a month chock full of choices.
Major sporting events canceled in March due to coronavirus:
- March 11: NBA season suspended
- March 12: NHL season suspended
- March 12: NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season canceled
- March 26: MLB regular season planned start date (delayed)
How much did coronavirus-caused cancellation cost sportsbooks? It’s hard to give an exact number, but New Jersey’s 2019 March numbers provide a hint. The 2019 NCAA Tournament attracted $100 million in wagers in New Jersey. Online handle in the Garden State for March 2019 was $298 million.
With $329 million in bets placed in February in PA, it’s safe to assume that if the virus never happened and the sports schedule played out, books would have easily surpassed $350 million in wagers. March’s handle is the lowest since August 2019 when the state only had four online sportsbooks. Today, it has nine.
No state or sportsbook is immune to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Yesterday, New Jersey sportsbooks released their report and March handle was $181.9 million, a 63% decrease from February. It was the smallest sportsbook handle in NJ since August 2018 ($95 million).
PA sports betting handle, revenue by operator in March 2020
Here’s a look at the numbers for operators in terms of revenue and handle:
|Casino or Off-Track Betting Facility||Total Handle||Total Revenue||Online Handle||Online Revenue||Retail Handle||Retail Revenue|
|FanDuel/Valley Forge Casino||$54,541,490||$2,726,035||$53,681,986||$2,766,315||$859,504||($40,280)|
|FOX Bet/Mount Airy||$6,919,120||$173,358||$6,149,211||$159,013||$769,909||$14,344|
|Unibet/Mohegan Sun Pocono||$1,655,958||$4,413||$1,192,405||$19,750||$463,552||($15,336)|
|Presque Isle Downs||$1,565,564||$59,743||$1,082,135||$35,838||$483,429||$23,905|
|South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook||$1,065,912||$87,757||0||0||$1,065,912||$87,757|
|Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course||$571,511||$53,730||0||0||$571,511||$53,730|
|Oaks Race and Sportsbook||$284,736||($8,536)||0||0||$284,736||($8,536)|
|Mohegan (The Downs at Lehigh Valley)||$176,494||$44,078||0||0||$176,494||$44,078|
Revenue drops for FanDuel, DraftKings climbing
In Pennsylvania, all nine online sportsbooks experienced a month-over-month decrease in handle. Only FanDuel ($2.8 million) and DraftKings ($1.5 million) reported increased revenue in March.
Forty-five percent of all mobile bets placed in PA in March came via FanDuel. DraftKings (The Meadows) remains in second place with handle of $28.6 million. Despite the lack of major sporting events, DraftKings continues to fork over large amounts of promotional credits ($649,440) in PA.
Casinos in PA started to close on March 13 and, by March 17, all were shuttered. As a result, retail sportsbooks handle reached about $13 million in wagers, the lowest amount since Hollywood Casino launched the state’s first sportsbook in December 2018.
The rest of PA online sportsbooks in March:
- Rivers Casino Philadelphia, with $12 million in online bets placed, and Rivers Casino Pittsburgh ($8.2 million). Rivers Philadelphia ($601,984) out-earned Rivers Pittsburgh ($535,860).
- Parx online sportsbook remains in fifth place taking $7.9 million in bets but produced more revenue than each Rivers Casino with $618,159.
- Fox Bet (Mount Airy) handled $6.1 million and made $159,013 in revenue.
- Unibet (Mohegan Sun) took $1.2 million in bets and posted $19,750 in revenue.
- BetAmerica (Presque Isle Downs) was a target of a cyberattack and remains offline. It reported $483,429 in handle and $23,905 in revenue in March.
- Newcomer Harrah’s (Caesars online sportsbook) fell victim to awful timing, and it translated to $139,790 handle and a loss of $18,075.
Fantasy contests in March sink to an all-time low
Reality seeped into fantasy in March. DFS took an expected dive due to sweeping cancellations.
Fantasy contest revenue hit an all-time low of $732,942. Since legal fantasy sports landed in Pennsylvania in May 2018, the previous low was $878,184 in July 2018.
Of Pennsylvania’s nine fantasy operators, FanDuel ($343,133) and DraftKings ($371,338) collected the majority of the revenue in March.
PA sports betting: ‘When’ and ‘if’
The future for sportsbooks, much like everything else right now, is uncertain. It revolves around “when?”
When can major sports leagues safely return to action, likely without fans in the stands? When and will the NBA and NHL continue or cancel their season? When will the MLB season start and how many games will they play?
Then there is the “big if.” What if the NFL cancels or shortens its season? The NFL is the most-watched and the most bet-on sport in America.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top American infectious disease specialist, laid out a possible return for professional sports this summer with no fans in attendance and players in hotels.
Fauci told Snapchat’s Peter Hamby:
“Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family and just let them play the season out.”
It may sound far-fetched, but at least hope for a return of sports is on the horizon.