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US – Pennsylvania Sportsbooks lose out on $220m in Bets in March while online casinos and poker surge

By - 20 April 2020

Coronavirus shutdowns loomed over Pennsylvania’s gaming industry in March, costing sportsbooks $220m 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.”

With the sports world largely shuttered after March 11, Pennsylvania’s handle slumped to just $131.3m for the month, according to official data released Thursday. That is down 60.2 per cent from $329.8m in February, though up from $44.5m in March 2019, before online sports betting launched.

Coronavirus-related closures have limited books to futures betting and some international sports. March Madness alone would have attracted $100m in bets at Pennsylvania sportsbooks, according to PlayPennsylvania estimates.

“The timing of the coronavirus shutdowns was particularly damaging to Pennsylvania sportsbooks, costing the industry millions in basketball-related bets,” Mr. Gouker said. “The first weekend of March Madness is the second-biggest sports betting event in the US, 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.”

$118.3m, or 90.1 per cent, of March’s handle came from online betting. FanDuel Sportsbook/Valley Forge Casino led online sportsbooks with $53.7m in March wagers, down from $138.5m in February. That yielded $2.8m in taxable revenue. Rivers-Philadelphia led the retail market with a $2.3m handle, down from $7.2m in February, and produced $146,281 in revenue.

“The bottom line is that Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks will not be healthy again until the sports world begins to reopen,” Mr. 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 casino games and poker generated a record $24.3m in revenue, easily surpassing the record $19.5m in revenue set in February. March’s gains yielded $5.9m in state taxes.

Poker tallied $3.1m in revenue, all by Mount Airy/PokerStars. Before New Jersey broke it in March, the all-jurisdiction record for poker revenue in a month was $3.1m, set in October 2016 by New Jersey. Online casinos boosted monthly revenue to $21.1m on $871.6m in wagers.

“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,” Mr. 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.”

Rivers-Philadelphia led the market with $6.8m in revenue on $293.2m in wagers. That is up from $4.8m in revenue on $194.7m in wagers in February.

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