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Pennsylvania sportsbooks up, but still off by $275 million

16 Jun 2020

(PRESS RELEASE) -- Pennsylvania’s retail and online sportsbooks rose in May, but lost out on about $275 million in potential bets, according to PlayPennsylvania estimates, while gamblers again turned to online casinos and poker rooms in record numbers. And with land-based casinos reopening in June and major sports slowly returning, the Keystone State is entering its recovery phase.

“May was another challenging month for Pennsylvania’s gaming industry, but it appears that it will be the last month of online casinos and poker rooms being the only bearer of good news,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com. “The casinos that have recently reopened appear to be experiencing relatively strong traffic, and sports bettors are finding increasingly more to bet on. Recovery for the entire industry will be a long road, but there are reasons for optimism.”

Pennsylvania sportsbooks would have expected to accept more than $350 million in a typical May. Instead, online sportsbooks generated $77.5 million in wagers, up 68.4% from April’s $46 million handle, according to official data released Tuesday. This during another month that again featured no retail sports betting, which would have generated nearly $40 million in a typical May, PlayPennsylvania estimates. In-person sports bets produced $35.9 million in May 2019, before online sports betting launched.

May’s handle yielded $4.8 million in gross revenue, up from $3.2 million in April, and $1.6 million in state taxes.

With NASCAR and some European soccer reopening in May, bettors had more to bet on, which helped drive interest. Boxing and the PGA Tour recently restarted, too. And the MLS and the NBA appear ready to begin in July.

“A normal menu of sports would likely mean an almost instant recovery for online sportsbooks, though we may still be a few months from that happening,” said Valerie Cross, analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com. “Pennsylvania’s online sportsbooks have been savvy in keeping their customers engaged with sports well outside the mainstream. That will only help when things begin to return to normal.”

FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino once again topped the market with a May handle of $29.6 million, up from $19 million in April. Those bets fueled $2.5 million in taxable revenue, up from $1.3 million. FanDuel was followed by:
  • DraftKings at The Meadows ($21.8 million handle, up from $12.6 million; $908,635 taxable revenue, up from $706,589)
  • Rivers-Philadelphia ($8.5 million handle, up from $5.9 million; $457,952 revenue, up from $309,551)
  • Fox Bet at Mount Airy ($7.8 million handle, up from $3.7 million; $351,876 revenue, up from $229,469)
  • Rivers-Pittsburgh ($4.9 million handle, up from $2.4 million; $272,898 revenue, up from $190,013)
  • Parx Casino ($3.8 million handle, up from $2.2 million; $278,850 revenue, up from $193,662)
  • Unibet at Mohegan Sun Pocono ($714,400 handle, up from $92,521; $43,912 revenue, up from $14,362)
  • Presque Isle Downs ($265,938 handle, up from $97,107; $6,036 revenue, up from -$4,066)
  • Harrah’s ($143,991 handle, up from $28,155; $1,545 revenue, up from -$557)
Online casinos and poker boom

With many gamblers still homebound in May, online casinos and poker rooms continued their meteoric growth, setting a new record with $55.9 million in gross revenue. That was up 29.7% from $43.1 million in April and nearly triple from $19.5 million in February.

A remarkable $1.8 billion was bet on online table games and slots in May — up from $1.4 billion in April — producing $51.2 million in revenue. And Mount Airy/PokerStars, the lone poker operator in Pennsylvania, again generated more revenue than any single state with legal online poker by generating $4.6 million, down from $5.3 million in April.

Casinos and poker revenue hit $1.8 million per day in the 31 days of May, up from $1.4 million per day in April. Operators, though, were still out of the $286.1 million land-based casinos generated in May 2019. But with casinos reopening in June, the state’s sole reliance on online revenue will change.

“As welcome as the online revenue has been, it can’t come close to replacing what was lost with the shutdown of land-based casinos,” Cross said. “So far early signs are good for Pennsylvania’s land-based casinos, but they are still navigating diminished capacity and uncertain demand as they reopen. For that reason, online casino games and poker will remain critical in bridging revenue gaps as Pennsylvania casinos recover.”

Rivers-Philadelphia led the online casino market with $17.6 million in revenue on $641.3 million in wagers, up from $13.7 million in revenue on $477 million in wagers in April. DraftKings, a sudden Wall Street darling, enjoyed a strong debut of its online casino under the Penn National license. After launching on May 1, DraftKings helped boost Penn National to $9 million in revenue on $313.4 million in wagers from $4.6 million in revenue and $122.2 million in wagers in April.

“DraftKings’ online casino is a well-designed product, and bettors obviously reacted positively,” Gouker said. “FanDuel and DraftKings are the dominant players in the state, and their dominance will only grow as their online casinos grow and sports betting returns.”
 
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