Year In Review: PA Online Gambling

Statistics recently released show that gamblers in Pennsylvania have embraced internet gambling to the point where a record was set in the 2020 fiscal year. With numbers climbing online, the volume at land-based casinos and gambling establishments took a dip over the same period. In this article, we will review the data, take a look at why internet gambling has become so successful, and look into the future of gambling in Pennsylvania.

The Numbers

As reported by Pennsylvania News Today, casino revenue in Pennsylvania during the 2020 fiscal year totaled $3.9 billion. That is up 40% from the 2019 total and 14% from the previous annual record set in 2018. Conversely, land-based casinos generated a total of $30 billion during the 2020 fiscal year. That represents a decrease of 31.3% from 2019. Looking at the numbers a bit closer, slot machines brought in just below $1.9 billion, with table games generating $721 million, both figures down from previous years which saw record highs established. The only other time that casinos earned fewer slot revenues was in 2012-2013, and that was just because there were fewer casinos in operation in the state. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is responsible for the gaming activity in the state and released the data to the public.

Where The Increase Came From

The PGCB states that online gambling PA, which has only been legal for just over two years, produced close to $900 million. Sports betting, which is now in its third year, increased annual revenue to $309 million. Both of these forms of gambling were introduced to the general public in Pennsylvania as part of an aggressive expansion of gambling opportunities that began in 2017. Looking at recent monthly totals, wagers in June 2021 totaled $420.2 million through the combination of online and retail sportsbooks. That figure is down slightly, just 6.1%, from the May 2021 total of $447.5 million. However, the gross gaming revenue at retail sportsbooks jumped in June to $42.5 million, an increase of 13.6% from May’s total of $37.4 million.

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What They Had To Say

Regarding the drop in betting action in June 2021 from the previous month, PlayUSA.com lead analyst Dustin Gouger says, “Betting volume typically falls over the summer, but sportsbooks tend to win more per bet on sports like golf and tennis. That really helped sportsbooks in June and will help them to continue to weather the offseason even as bettors engage less.” It is a well-known factor that the summer months are always the slowest simply because the sports calendar is somewhat quiet. However, that usually changes in August and September with the return of football. Of all the sports options that a gambler has to choose from throughout the year, football – professional and college – is always the top wager earner, even better than hockey or basketball.

As for the annual figures in the 2020 fiscal year setting a new all-time record, Valerie Cross who is an analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com states, “There is no question that the boom in online gaming is a direct result of pandemic-related restrictions on retail casinos, but there is strong evidence to suggest that the growth has real lasting power. We have seen retail numbers bounce back to near pre-pandemic levels in Pennsylvania, Atlantic City, and elsewhere.” He added, “Online gaming revenue hasn’t missed a beat. This suggests a behavioral change in gamblers that won’t likely change much, at least in the near future.” The American Gaming Association indicates that Pennsylvania dropped from the second-largest gambling revenue generator in the US (behind Nevada) to third, behind New Jersey.

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What Has Driven This Success

You could say that 2020 had all the elements of a perfect storm. The record revenue totals for online gambling in Pennsylvania can be credited to a few things. They include the increasing popularity of online casinos giving bettors access to betting opportunities without having to leave their homes, or the ability to place bets from their car, at the office, or riding the commuter bus. Another factor is the evolving improvements of mobile technology where pages load faster and graphics don’t cause a phone or tablet to freeze up. Probably the biggest factor is COVID-19. It forced closures and eventual capacity limits at all land-based casinos. This pushed dedicated gamblers to find alternatives and the internet was the easiest, most logical place to go.

Add to this the explosion of online gambling sites popping up everywhere to capitalize on the COVID closures and restrictions, and it all starts to make sense. For states like Pennsylvania where online gambling has only been legal for a couple of years, the combination of things worked out very well to where the state benefited greatly from internet gambling. Other states with legalized online gambling would have also experienced positive revenues for the same reasons Pennsylvania did. It also makes a strong argument for those states yet to pass bills to permit online gambling. You can bet that each state without legal online gambling is paying close attention to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, and others that are setting the pace with internet gambling.

Final Thoughts

The internet has changed the way we do a lot of things ranging from communicating to how we find information and seek entertainment. It has provided greater access to all sorts of things and online gambling happens to be one of the most interesting features of the internet. Online gambling has provided an easy to access form of entertainment that has become legalized in more states in the past two years with more coming on stream.

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Legalized online gambling is attractive to state legislators simply because the taxes collected from it provides an impressive stream of revenue that can be used in many ways. In Pennsylvania, online gambling is still relatively new but has contributed enough revenue to push gambling income into a record-setting pace as has been revealed by the PGCB for the 2020 fiscal year. If this trend continues, records will keep getting broken as the number of online casino operators keeps growing.