Posted on: March 17, 2021, 08:48h.
Last updated on: March 17, 2021, 08:48h.
Pennsylvania is solidifying itself as the nation’s second largest gaming market behind only Nevada.
The US is far removed from the days when commercial gambling was largely limited to Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Twenty-four states have legalized commercial gambling, and many more with tribal Class III casinos.
But outside of Nevada, it’s Pennsylvania that today generates more revenue from gambling than any other state. Gross gaming revenue (GGR) in February totaled more than $301.9 million.
That mark is substantially higher than New Jersey’s February haul of $288.2 million. Nevada has not yet released its February GGR, but Pennsylvania has a long way to go if its mission is to become the country’s gaming industry leader. Nevada casinos won $761.8 million in January to kick off 2021.
Pennsylvania iGaming Blossoms
Refusing to raise taxes on constituents, Pennsylvania Republicans in 2017 passed legislation to greatly expand gaming in the Commonwealth. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed off on the measure.
The gaming package legalized online gambling, sports betting and fantasy sports, video gaming terminals (VGTs) at certain diesel truck stops, and airport gaming. It additionally authorized so-called “satellite casinos.” Five such licenses were successfully auctioned, each location permitted to house up to 750 slot machines and initially 30 table games.
COVID-19 resulted in Pennsylvania’s brick-and-mortar casinos being forced to close at various times throughout 2020. The pandemic changed gaming behaviors, and iGaming benefited.
While GGR from land-based slot machines and table games was down more than a quarter in February 2021 compared with February 2020, online casinos once again flourished. Online slots jumped 425 percent year-over-year to $50.5 million, and table games climbed more than 207 percent to $24.6 million.
Pennsylvania’s casinos were open throughout the entire month of February 2020. They were shuttered on Wolf’s orders in mid-March.
Sports betting also helped offset last month’s retail losses. Oddsmakers won $16.3 million — up 247 percent — on wagers totaling $509.5 million.
Ask a Pennsylvanian about their state’s gaming industry and most will respond that it’s seemingly everywhere.
Once confined to only brick-and-mortar casinos, residents are now bombarded by television commercials advertising online gambling and mobile sports betting. Walk into a gas station, and the five VGT seats the convenience store is permitted are often occupied.
Pennsylvanians wagered over $27.2 million on VGTs last month at 43 gas stations. The terminals kept $2.5 million of their wagers.
While Pennsylvania’s gaming industry is flourishing, those invested have grave concerns regarding the continue proliferation of unlicensed “skill gaming” machines. The devices, which pay no taxes and are not regulated to pay out a certain percentage, can be found in bars, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, motels, and standalone skill gaming businesses.
Let me make it clear that there are no ‘legal’ skill games in the Commonwealth,” Daniel Ihm, vice president and general manager of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course told Casino.org. “The Commonwealth rejected proposals to authorize widespread distributed gaming across the Commonwealth — either through VGTs at bars and taverns or the legalization of skill games.”
Penn National Gaming is the oldest gaming operator in the state. Along with its Hollywood Casino, the company is building satellite casinos in York and Morgantown, operates online gaming and sports betting with Barstool Sports, and also distributes VGTs to truck stops.