Casinos Lost 45,600 Operating Days Last Year, Revenue Tumbles 31 Percent to $30B

Posted on: May 21, 2021, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: May 21, 2021, 10:06h.

Commercial casinos in the United States missed out on approximately 45,600 operating days last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s according to data compiled by the American Gaming Association (AGA) for its 2021 State of the States report.

US casinos 2020 GGR gaming iGaming sports betting
The Las Vegas Strip is seen barren during last year’s coronavirus pandemic. US casinos were closed for a combined total of 45,600 days, resulting in billions of dollars in lost gaming revenue. (Image: AP)

The AGA, the chief lobbying group of the commercial gaming industry in the US, says the pandemic resulted in the first year-over-year gross gaming revenue (GGR) contraction since 2014. 

GGR from brick-and-mortar casinos, online gaming, mobile, and retail sports betting, and video gaming terminals (VGTs) totaled $29.98 billion. That’s down 31.2 percent from 2019 when the industry reported a GGR of $43.6 billion.

The nearly $30 billion gaming win is the industry’s lowest annual haul since 2003. Of the 25 states with commercial casinos, all reported year-over-year revenue declines for their land-based play.

While brick-and-mortar gaming suffered greatly amid state-ordered closures, iGaming and online sports betting thrived. 

Industry Leader Optimistic

2020 was a year unlike any other in the history of the United States’ gaming industry. The US commercial sector entered 2020 fresh off five consecutive years of GGR expansion. But then the coronavirus struck. 

“The immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were jarring. By late March, every commercial casino — and nearly every tribal casino — had closed its doors,” said Bill Miller, president and CEO of the AGA. 

Miller focused on the positives, citing iGaming GGR exploding 200 percent, and sports betting revenue growing by 69 percent. Americans wagered $21.5 billion on sports — up from $13 billion in 2019 — and oddsmakers kept $1.5 billion of the wagers.

Although 2020 presented a tremendous challenge and many headwinds remain, I’m optimistic about gaming’s future,” Miller continued. 

But Miller conceded that the land-based GGR offsets generated by iGaming and sports betting don’t tell the full story. Casino resorts lost out on live entertainment, hotel stays, and meetings and conventions, all of which are critical to their operating profits.   

Nevada was once again easily the top commercial gaming market, casinos there winning more than $7.87 billion from gamblers. New Jersey was second at $3.46 billion, and Pennsylvania a close third at $3.41 billion.

US commercial casinos delivered tax revenue of $6.68 billion last year to state and local governments. 

Gaming Rebound, But in New Areas

Miller’s optimism, he says, stems from GGR in Q1 of 2021, which tied the industry’s all-time best three-month period. 

“The first quarter of 2021 clearly shows that consumer interest in gaming never waned, despite the challenges of 2020,” the AGA boss explained. “This momentum is a direct result of our industry’s ability to provide safe environments for our employees and guests to return to and is a strong indicator that our recovery is on the horizon.”

January through March, however, only matched the industry’s best quarter because of iGaming and sports betting. Of the $11.13 billion Q1 revenue, online gaming and sports gambling accounted for $1.7 billion. During Q1 of 2019 — the all-time high that was matched — those verticals accounted for only $250 million.