US Gaming Industry Healthy as Ever, as Q1 Casino Revenue Matches All-Time High

Posted on: May 11, 2021, 11:17h. 

Last updated on: June 23, 2021, 01:31h.

The US gaming industry has more than fully recovered from the economic effects of COVID-19, as casinos reported all-time record revenue in the first quarter of 2021.

US gaming industry AGA GGR
A gambler at Harrah’s Philadelphia places a bet last June with showgirls looking on. The US gaming industry has quickly bounced back to pre-pandemic gaming levels. (Image: WHYY)

The American Gaming Association (AGA), the industry’s chief lobbying group in DC, released its Q1 commercial gaming report today. The organization says gross gaming revenue (GGR) for January through March topped $11 billion, iGaming and sports betting helping to offset substantial brick-and-mortar losses.  

Despite the coronavirus certainly not behind the US, gaming industry revenue in 2021 is off to a blistering start. The $11.13 billion total GGR number matches the previous all-time record quarter set in the first three months of 2019.

Additionally, Q1 2021 represents a nearly 18 percent jump in the first quarter of 2020. Every commercial land-based casino in the US was forced to close in March or April of 2020 because of the coronavirus. 

The AGA reports that more than half of the states with commercial casinos saw quarterly GGR increases in 2021 compared with 2019. The quarterly report does not include gaming revenue from tribal casinos. 

Recovery Well Underway

It’s what so many casino executives and gaming industry analysts have been predicting: robust pent-up demand for entertainment, including casino gambling, will result in a quick bounce back for the US gaming industry. 

Some of the industry’s biggest leaders, including Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox and D Las Vegas and Circa owner Derek Stevens, have predicted 2021 and beyond will be similar to the Roaring 1920s. The Q1 GGR numbers seem to suggest that might precisely be the case.

Today’s report shows gaming’s comeback is ahead of schedule,” declared AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “The gaming industry is generating these impressive results with one hand tied behind our back as capacity and amenity restrictions remain across the country.”

Slot machines generated a GGR of $6.7 billion during the three-month span. Table games won $1.62 billion, sports betting $961.1 million, and iGaming $784.5 million. Q1 2021 would not have been anywhere near Q1 2019 without iGaming and sports betting, which totaled approximately $1.7 billion. Those formats generated GGR of around $250 million in the first three months of 2019. 

Terry Glebocki, CEO of the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City and the forthcoming president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, told the Associated Press that vaccines and COVID-19 protocols inside casinos have made patrons feel safe.

“I do think we’re seeing more and more people feeling more comfortable coming out,” she said. “There’s a ton of pent-up demand. People want to go out and have fun, and that’s what you do at a casino.”

State by State GGR

Nevada easily led the way in Q1 GGR, the state home to Las Vegas reporting casino win of more than $2.6 billion — or roughly 23 percent of the nation’s gaming market.

Pennsylvania ranked second at $1.04 billion and was the only other state to eclipse the $1 billion mark. New Jersey came in third at $994 million. Rounding out the top five was Mississippi ($615.6M) and Indiana ($587.1M). 

While the gaming report is a major positive, the AGA cautions that commercial casinos are struggling in their other business segments.

“Impressively, gaming outperformed the broader economy in the first quarter,” the AGA release explained. “But that only tells part of the gaming industry’s story. 

“Though $11.13 billion was generated from gaming, casinos across the country continued to struggle with limitations on live entertainment, dining, hotel bookings, and meetings and conventions that are essential to the industry’s bottom line,” the AGA concluded.