With $24.3 million in revenue, online casinos and poker lone bright spot for the industry, according to PlayPennsylvania
LAS VEGAS — The handle for Pennsylvania’s retail and online sportsbooks shrunk in March to its smallest monthly total since August 2019, while online casinos and poker exploded to a new record. Coronavirus shutdowns loom over the gambling industry, costing sportsbooks $220 million in wagers in March, according to PlayPennsylvania estimates, and sending home-bound bettors to online casinos and poker rooms in record numbers.
“Pennsylvania’s gaming industry is navigating waters that are unprecedented anywhere,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com. “It’s an industry that employs thousands in Pennsylvania and generates millions of dollars in tax revenue, and it is not designed to be closed. Growth in online casinos is helping, but it can’t entirely make up for the revenue lost from sports betting and land-based casinos being shut down.”
Pennsylvania sportsbooks appeared headed for its first month with a handle of more than $350 million in revenue. But with the sports world largely shuttered after March 11, Pennsylvania’s handle slumped to just $131.3 million for the month, according to official data released Thursday. That is down 60.2% from $329.8 million in February, though up from $44.5 million in March 2019, before online sports betting launched.
March’s revenue hit $8.6 million, up from $4.7 million in February. The win resulted in $2.3 million in tax revenue for the state.
The suspension of the NBA season on March 11 sent shockwaves through the sports world, leading to the eventual indefinite shut down of most major events. That included the cancelation of March Madness, which would have attracted $100 million in bets at Pennsylvania sportsbooks, according to PlayPennsylvania estimates. The closures have limited books to futures betting, mostly on the NFL, and some international sports.
“The timing of the coronavirus shutdowns was particularly damaging to Pennsylvania sportsbooks, costing the industry millions in basketball-related bets,” Gouker said. “The first weekend of March Madness is the second-biggest sports betting event in the U.S., behind only the Super Bowl, and its cancellation leaves no feasible way to make up that revenue. Obviously, there are dramatic health and economic concerns for everyone right now, but the loss of revenue will be felt by Pennsylvania’s gambling industry for quite some time.”
$118.3 million, or 90.1%, of the state’s March handle came from online betting. FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino led the market with $53.7 million in March wagers, down from $138.5 million in February. That yielded $2.8 million in taxable revenue, up from $146,080 in February. FanDuel was followed by:
- DraftKings at The Meadows ($28.6 million in handle, down from $72.3 million; $1.5 million taxable revenue, up from $1 million)
- Rivers-Philadelphia ($12 million in handle, down from $24.7 million; $601,984 revenue, down from $784,565)
- Rivers-Pittsburgh ($8.2 million in handle, down from $18.9 million; $535,860 revenue, down from $680,514)
- Parx Casino ($7.9 million handle, down from $19.9 million; $618,159 revenue, down from $818,817)
- Fox Bet at Mount Airy ($6.1 million handle, down from $14.4 million; $159,013 revenue, down from $539,372)
- Unibet at Mohegan Sun Pocono ($1.2 million handle, down from $4 million; $19,750 revenue, down from $86,558)
- Presque Isle Downs ($483,429 handle, down from $1.4 million; $23,905 revenue, down from $37,258)
- Harrah’s ($139,790 handle, -$18,075 revenue)
Rivers-Philadelphia led the retail market with a $2.3 million handle, down from $7.2 million in February. That yielded $146,281 in revenue, down from $383,793. Rivers-Philadelphia was followed by:
- Parx ($2 million handle, down from $5.9 million; $168,090 revenue, up from $127,231)
- Rivers-Pittsburgh ($1.8 million handle, down from $6 million; $130,270 revenue, down from $809,858)
- South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook ($1.1 million handle, down from $2.7 million; $87,757 revenue, down from $181,236)
- Presque Isle ($1.1 million handle, down from $1.7 million; $35,838 revenue, up from $12,865)
- Harrah’s Philadelphia ($1 million handle, down from $2.9 million; $94,056 revenue revenue, up from -$64,494)
- Valley Forge Casino ($859,504 handle, down from $2.5 million; -$40,280 revenue, up from -$75,306)
- Mount Airy ($769,909 handle, up from $589,668; $14,344 revenue, up from -$20,065 in revenue)
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course ($571,511 handle, down from $2.1 million; $53,730 revenue, up from -$150,053)
- Mohegan ($463,552 handle, down from $1.7 million; -$15,336 revenue, down from $19,561)
- Oaks Race and Sportsbook ($284,736 handle, down from $856,374; -$8,526 revenue, down from $17,529)
“The bottom line is that Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks will not be healthy again until the sports world begins to reopen,” Gouker said. “No one yet knows for sure when that day will come. But sports leagues everywhere are trying to figure out ways to begin games again, so there is at least some reason for some optimism.”
Online casinos and poker boom
With land-based casinos closed and many of the state’s residents home-bound, Pennsylvania’s online casinos and poker rooms boomed to dramatic new records. Combined, online casino games and poker generated a record $24.3 million in revenue, easily surpassing the previous best of $19.5 million in revenue set just last month. March’s gains yielded $5.9 million in tax revenue for the state.
Poker alone generated $3.1 million in March revenue, all by Mount Airy/PokerStars, the lone online poker operator in the state. Previously, the all-jurisdiction record for poker revenue in a month was $3.1 million, set in October 2016 in New Jersey. The Garden State also set a new record in March with $3.6 million.
Online casinos boosted monthly revenue to $21.1 million on $871.6 million in wagers, which was up from $547.6 million in bets in February.
A high tax rate and technological issues had slowed the development of Pennsylvania’s online casinos and poker industry, and even now those issues continue to impede the market. But March’s gains were much-needed for an industry with nowhere else to turn.
“Pennsylvania’s online product has been slow to develop, but the revenue the industry is generating now is vital to the gaming industry and the state budget,” Gouker said. “Ideally, Pennsylvania’s online casino industry would’ve had the opportunity to mature more quickly. But it is definitely better than if it didn’t exist at all, as is the case in most states.”
Other important online data from March:
- Rivers-Philadelphia led the market with $6.8 million in revenue on $293.2 million in wagers. That is up from $4.8 million in revenue on $194.7 million in wagers in February.
- FanDuel/Valley Forge Casino was second with $5 million in online revenue on $250.6 million in wagers. That was down from $6.1 million in revenue on $279.3 million in wagers in February.
- Casinos and poker generated $782,768 per day in the 31 days of March, up from $672,097 per day in the 29 days in February.
For more information on the revenue generated by Pennsylvania sports betting, visit www.playpennsylvania.com/revenue.