Pennsylvania Casino Slot and Table Revenue Lagging Behind Pre-Pandemic Levels

Posted on: February 20, 2022, 07:48h. 

Last updated on: February 22, 2022, 08:07h.

Pennsylvania casinos continue to see reduced business at the 16 gaming floors across the commonwealth compared with pre-pandemic conditions.

Pennsylvania casinos gaming revenue GGR
A rather vacant parking lot outside Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course is seen in a 2018 file photograph. Pennsylvania casinos remain operating below pre-pandemic conditions in terms of brick-and-mortar play. (Image: Wikimedia)

Last year, the Pennsylvania gaming industry set an all-time high in terms of gross gaming revenue (GGR). Total win from all verticals eclipsed $4.73 billion, which was an impressive 39 percent gain on the previous record of $3.41 billion, set in 2019.

However, the 2021 record gaming headlines were slightly misleading, as brick-and-mortar play remained down compared with 2019. GGR from retail slots and table games last year totaled approximately $3.21 billion. In 2019, revenue from such games totaled $3.26 billion.

January Not Start Casinos Hoped

Pennsylvania casinos hope to rebound to 2019 levels in 2022. But January didn’t kick things off in the right direction.

GGR from brick-and-mortar slot machines totaled $168.4 million last month, more than six percent lower than the $179.8 million the retail terminals kept from players in January 2019.

Table games managed to change the narrative a bit last month, revenue from blackjack, roulette, craps, and other games totaling $78.2 million. That’s a five percent improvement on January 2019.

The combined retail play totaled roughly $246.6 million — or three percent lower than the $254.2 million the slots and tables won in January 2019.

Adding to the concern is that there are many more slot machines and table games in operation today than there were two years ago.

Pennsylvania gaming continues to expand by way of new Category 4 satellite casinos. The mini-casinos are initially permitted to house up to 750 slot machines and 30 table games. Each satellite must be tethered to a larger casino license.

Three satellites have already opened — Hollywood Casino York, Live! Casino Pittsburgh, and Hollywood Casino Morgantown.

The state gaming industry largely opposed Pennsylvania lawmakers greatly expanding legal gaming in 2017. They did so  with a gaming package that authorized as many as 10 Category 4 satellites.

Penn National Gaming, the oldest gaming operator in the state, argued that the state was already at or approaching market saturation. Penn National nonetheless bid to secure satellite casino locations in order to protect its marquee Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course outside of Harrisburg.

To highlight such saturation, Wind Creek Bethlehem recently petitioned the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for authorization to remove nearly a quarter of its slot machines. The casino cited reduced demand and a wish among some customers to social distance while playing.

Expanded Gaming Offsets Losses

In January of 2019, Pennsylvania didn’t have legal online casino gambling, sports betting, or truck stop video gaming terminals (VGTs). The expanded gaming easily allowed the state gaming industry to beat January 2019 revenue.

Total gaming revenue from land-based casinos, iGaming, sports betting, daily fantasy sports, and VGTs was $393.1 million. Online slots won $71.8 million — a 41 percent year-over-year surge — and online tables kept $33 million of the digital bets — 24 percent better than January 2021.

Oddsmakers kept $32.1 million, which was a five percent drop from last year.