Pennsylvania Casinos Post August Revenue Increase, Bethlehem Continues Struggle

Posted on: September 17, 2020, 10:10h. 

Last updated on: September 17, 2020, 10:49h.

The 12 Pennsylvania brick-and-mortar casinos reported a surprisingly strong August performance. Gross gaming revenue (GGR) from their land-based and online operations totaled $306.31 million last month, a 4.9 percent premium on the same month in 2019.

Pennsylvania casinos revenue GGR
An employee cleans a sportsbook machine at River Casino in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania sports betting kiosks were busy but clean in August. (Image: Rivers Casino Philadelphia)

In the state, brick-and-mortar play was down, as casinos are limited to 50 percent of their typical capacity. Numerous health safety measures remain in effect, including reduced seating at table games and slot machines rearranged to promote social distancing.

Smoking is also prohibited on the gaming floors, and alcohol can only be consumed while eating.

Retail slot machine GGR was down 19 percent to $166.9 million. Table games won 14.5 percent fewer dollars, with revenue totaling $65.1 million. But the land-based losses were more than offset by mobile and online play. Internet casinos, including interactive slots, tables, and poker, won more than $55.9 million.

Online slots surged from just $2.5 million in August 2019 to $39.6 million last month. Interactive table game revenue also skyrocketed, win going from $903,000 to $13.5 million.

Parx was the top winner in August, the casino near Philadelphia reporting a total GGR of $58.8 million. Rivers Casino Philadelphia grabbed the No. 2 spot at $39.5 million.

Wind Creek Bethlehem continues to lose market share. The casino purchased by Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians from Las Vegas Sands for $1.3 billion last year placed No. 3 at $33.3 million.

Mobile Betting Rescues Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania took its first legal sports bet in November of 2018. Wagering on sports has been a welcomed bonus to casinos ever since.

Sportsbooks posted a record handle in August of $365 million. Its previous best was $348.4 million set in January of 2020. Oddsmakers kept more than $18.2 million of the bets last month.

Mobile betting commanded the vast majority of the betting handle and win. Online sportsbooks were responsible for $15.4 million of the hold.

Pennsylvania’s gaming industry is also benefiting from the implementation of video gaming terminals (VGTs). The slot-like machines can be placed inside certain diesel truck stops. A top executive at Rutter’s told me last week that the VGTs have performed very well for the convenience store chain. Rutter’s is partnered with Penn National Gaming for its VGT operations.

VGTs won $2.4 million last month. Revenue from the terminals is split between the gaming operator and host store. Maximum bets on VGTs are set at $5, and maximum payouts are $1,000. The first Pennsylvania VGT went live last summer.

Daily fantasy sports additionally fared well in August, revenue coming in at $2.1 million, up from $1.3 million in August of 2019.

Soaring Above Other States 

COVID-19 has cost Pennsylvania government coffers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue. The nearly three-month closure of Keystone State casinos resulted in the state missing out on $424 million in taxes.

With casinos reopened, sports back — including, soon, the Big Ten and the return of the Penn State Nittany Lions to the gridiron — the state is once again benefiting from the industry.

Total tax revenue last month totaled $128.8 million. That’s roughly $6.5 million more than the state received from gaming in August of 2019.