Gaming Industry Execs Reject Notion that Land-Based Casinos are Dead

Posted on: May 10, 2021, 10:09h. 

Last updated on: June 30, 2021, 09:42h.

Land-based casinos struggled greatly during the 2020 pandemic. But industry executives are rejecting any notion that online is the future of gambling. 

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A sign in March of 2020 on the San Manuel Casino floor in Southern California informs guests that it will close because of the pandemic. More than a year later, gaming industry executives say land-based casinos will return to full strength. (Image: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

After the coronavirus invaded the US early last year, nearly every brick-and-mortar commercial and tribal casino shuttered. While physical slot machines were powered down in mid-March of 2020, interactive gaming sites reported record growth. 

Casino operators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey — two states with full online casino gambling — were still able to generate gross gaming revenue (GGR) during the spring and summer 2020 shutdowns of their land-based gaming operations. 

Rumblings have been circulating lately that the pandemic will effectively render land-based casinos obsolete. But in the wake of COVID-19 vaccines being distributed and life slowly beginning to return to normal, industry experts say opinions that brick-and-mortar casinos are a thing of the past are unfounded.

Alive and Well

The National Council of Legislators from the Gaming States (NCLGS) hosted a webinar last week titled, “Land-Based Gaming: Still Expanding.” The general opinion from the five-person panel moderated by NCLGS President and Nevada Sen. Keith Pickard (R-District 20) was that brick-and-mortar gaming is poised for a quick comeback. 

Rumors of the death of land-based gaming are greatly exaggerated. Not only that, they are completely wrong,” declared Howard Glaser, global head of government affairs and special initiatives at Scientific Games. 

The Cordish Companies is on a bullish run of investing in its current casinos, as well as remaining steadfast to opening two new gaming properties in Pennsylvania. The Baltimore-based casino operator opened its satellite venue Live! Casino Pittsburgh in Westmoreland, Pa., in November. Cordish opened Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia, a $700 million integrated resort, earlier this year.

“We put our money where our mouth is in terms of the strength of resort destinations in regional markets,” said Joe Weinberg, Cordish Gaming’s CEO.

Recent revenue reports suggest the panelists are correct in predicting a quick COVID-19 recovery for land-based casinos. In March, casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania enjoyed their best GGR month ever, and Atlantic City and Nevada posted their best gaming months since the pandemic began.

Demand Fueling Recovery

During recent quarterly earnings calls, casino executives told analysts and investors that they’re experiencing a return of visitors. 

Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg revealed that the company’s weekend hotel rooms in Las Vegas “are sold out for the foreseeable future.” It’s one reason why Reeg said Caesars made the decision not to sell any of its casino holdings in Southern Nevada. 

MGM Resorts, the largest employer in Nevada and operator of the most casinos on the Strip, said it, too, is taking an abundance of bookings.

Our gross bookings in March were one of the best months in the company’s history, clearly backed by pent-up leisure and casino demand,” Hornbuckle explained.

Penn National Gaming reported a record quarter to kick-off 2021.

“At our land-based operations, the momentum has continued following the rollout of vaccines and the ongoing relaxation of COVID-19-related restrictions across the country. Our record first-quarter results highlight the robust recovery in our land-based business,” said Penn CEO Jay Snowden.