Massachusetts casinos reported March gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $84 million. It was their best performance since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago.
Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park combined for their highest casino win in over a year. Encore led the way with GGR of $49.7 million. MGM was a distant second at $22.1 million, and Plainridge third at $12.2 million.
In January of 2020, the casinos reported GGR of $58 million. In February of 2020, GGR was $67 million.
I’m encouraged. We’ve had a year of being in the doldrums,” Paul DeBole, a political science professor at Lasell University in Massachusetts who closely follows the state’s gaming industry, told The Boston Globe.
Casinos continue to be limited to operating below 40 percent of their fire code capacity. Social distancing regulations also remain in place.
Despite the limitations, neither of the three casinos have reported an instance where it was forced to turn away gamblers due to exceeding its 40 percent capacity.
Plainridge reports that its busiest day was when the slots parlor had 1,426 guests on the casino floor. But that is still just 24.6 percent of its capacity. MGM’s busiest day was with 1,861 gamblers — only 23 percent of its casino floor cap. Encore had 3,537 players during its busiest day since reopening, but that’s only 20.8 percent of its capacity.
Gaming Taxes Return
Massachusetts levies a 25 percent tax on GGR stemming from the state’s two Category 1 full-scale casinos — Encore and MGM. Plainridge, which doesn’t have table games, is a Category 2 casino, and therefore taxed at 49 percent.
In March, the three casinos paid more than $23.9 million in gaming taxes. The revenue benefits numerous programs, but the bulk is set aside for local aid.
Massachusetts’ casinos have never come anywhere close to their pre-market GGR forecasts that they floated to the state in obtaining their gaming privileges. For example, MGM Resorts told the state its casino in Massachusetts would win $418 million from gamblers in its first full year in operation. That number was actually $273.8 million — $144.2 million short.
DeBole says that while the casinos returned to their pre-pandemic GGR numbers last month, it’s worth noting that the casinos have never met their pre-market expectations.
“If they bounce back to pre-pandemic numbers, that’s great — bearing in mind that the pre-pandemic numbers weren’t anywhere near what was expected,” he stated.
Sports Betting Delay
Boston-based DraftKings is one of the largest sportsbook operators in the US. The interactive gaming provider is operational in 13 states, but not in its home of Massachusetts.
This week, the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee did not include potential tax revenue from sports betting in its fiscal budget draft, signaling that the odds of the gaming expansion coming anytime soon remain long.
Sports betting is live in numerous neighboring states to Massachusetts, including New York, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Connecticut is soon to join them after the state recently struck a deal with its two tribal casino operators to allow them to conduct online gaming and mobile sports betting.