The return of football helped Pennsylvania sportsbooks post their first month-over-month increase in betting volume since March with nearly $350m in bets in August. The gain sets the stage for what could be a record-shattering fall for the state’s sportsbooks as online casinos and poker rooms continue their own torrid pace.
“August’s sports schedule is still relatively light compared with the fall, so it is welcome to see betting volume move off the low we saw in July,” said Valerie Cross, analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com. “The next four months is the most important stretch of the year for sportsbooks, though, and every sign points toward a stretch of widespread growth.”
Pennsylvania’s online and retail sportsbooks accepted $348.5m in wagers in August, down 4.5 per cent from $365m in August 2020 but up 14.5 per cent from $304.4m in July. August marked the first month since March, when sportsbooks took in $560.3m in wagers, that the combined handle topped the previous month’s handle.
Gross gaming revenue fell 8.3 per cent to $25.3m from $27.6m in August 2020 and fell 7.9 per cent from $27.5m in July. August produced $18m in taxable revenue, generating $6.1m in state taxes and $360,145 in local share assessments.
The gains in August were likely in part a product of increasing interest in baseball, especially as the Philadelphia Phillies remained in postseason contention. But a handful of college and NFL preseason games, in addition to futures betting on football, undoubtedly helped boost bettors’ interest.
“An inglorious exit from the NBA playoffs, the struggles of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the inconsistency of the Phillies, conspired to make this a relatively slow summer for Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks,” said Dustin Gouker, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayPennsylvania.com. “It took just a handful of games in August to show how important football is to the sports-betting industry.”
Bettors made $318.1m in wagers at the state’s online sportsbooks, representing 91.3 per cent of the state’s total handle. FanDuel led all online operators with $135.7m in wagering, up 27.1 per cent from $106.7m in July. FanDuel’s online revenue fell 54 per cent to $5.7m in August from $12.3m in July, yielding $3m in taxable revenue.
DraftKings was second in the state with $80.4m in wagers, up 21.4 per cent from $66.2m in July. That yielded $8m in gross revenue and $6.6m in taxable revenue. BetMGM was third in the state with $29m in wagers and $2.5m in gross revenue. Penn National’s Barstool-branded app attracted $26.3m in wagers creating $2.1m in gross revenue and $1.6m in taxable revenue.
Meanwhile, retail sportsbooks accepted $30.4m in wagers in August, up from $29m in July. Those wagers created $3.3m in gross gaming revenue, up 22.8 per cent from $2.7m in July. Rivers Philadelphia topped the retail market with $5.1m in bets, ahead of Rivers Pittsburgh’s $4.4m handle.
“Revenue generation is important this time of year, too, but football is often a springboard for operators to build relationships with new customers,” Gouker said. “This is why operators are aggressive with their football-related promotional offerings and advertising campaigns, particularly around the opening weeks of the season. It’s also a time when giants such as FanDuel and DraftKings really can exploit their resource advantage over smaller operators.”
Online casinos and poker rooms posted their sixth consecutive month with gross gaming revenue over $100m with $103.2m in August. That was up 54.8 per cent from $66.7m in August 2020, though down 1.2 per cent from $104.5m in July.
Gross revenue was whittled to $88.7m in taxable revenue, which was even with July. August’s win yielded $39.4m in state and local taxes. Wagering at online casino games remained brisk, hitting $3.2bn in August, which was also even with July.
“While sportsbooks ebb and flow with the seasons, the growth at online casinos has been consistent and relentless,” Cross said. “As the weather cools, that growth should continue. There are no signs yet that point to any kind of slowdown on the immediate horizon.”
Online casino and poker rooms generated $3.3m in gross gaming revenue per day over the 31 days of August, down from $3.4m per day in July. Penn National, which includes the DraftKings, BetMGM, Barstool, and Hollywood casinos, led the market once again with $35.1m in gross revenue. Rivers Philadelphia, which includes SugarHouse, Borgata, and BetRivers casinos, was second with $30.8m.
On the strength of the first full month of the World Series of Poker, poker generated $3.2m in revenue, up from $2.7m in August 2020. Mount Airy/PokerStars topped operators with $1.9m in revenue.