December spike as online fails to offset Pennsylvania’s 2020 retail losses

Pennsylvania online casino and sportsbooks enjoyed a bumper December performance, however, despite an online push throughout the year the closure of retail gaming due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to 22.24 per cent drop in gaming revenues in 2020.

For the year the combined revenue of slot machines, table games, sports wagering, igaming, video gaming terminals and fantasy contests came to $2.65bn (2019: $3.41bn), while tax reached $1.09bn (2019: $1.41bn). 

Casino closure days totalled 1,473 in 2020, or 33 per cent of the number of days the 13 facilities would have been operating in a normal year.

Online casinos and poker enjoyed another bumper month as 2020 drew to close, bringing in $71.6m in gross operator revenue, and surpassing the record $59.8m set just one month earlier in the process.

That amounted to $2.3m per day over the 31 days of the month, up from $2m per day over the 30 days of November, with December’s revenue generating $19.3m in state taxes and another $9.8m in local share assessments and county grants. Online casinos produced $680.2m in revenue and $154.6m in state taxes for the year.

“The late-2019 launch of online casinos proved to be fortuitous timing,” Valerie Cross, analyst for PlayPennsylvania, said of the performance. 

“The revenue lost from casino closures could not have been foreseen and not be completely replaced, but there is no doubt the launch of online gaming helped stem the losses and steady the industry.”

The Keystone State’s sportsbooks recovered from what was labelled a “slow” November, to accept $548.6m in wagers in December, a result which is up 11.5 per cent from $491.9m month-on-month and one which topped the record $525.8m record set in October.

Taxable operator revenue hit $34.1m, less than the record $37.4m in November, with the period generating $11.6m in state taxes and $681,191 in local share assessments.

Compared with December 2019, December’s handle was up 60.1 per cent from $342.6m while taxable revenue rose 199.4 per cent from $11.4m.

“Online betting, both on sports and online casino games, have been a crucial silver lining to what was overall a rough year for Pennsylvania’s gaming industry,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for

“Obviously, the growth online has come unfortunately as the retail market has faced pandemic-related shutdowns. But without the increase in online revenue, there is no telling how much weaker a position the entire industry would be in right now.”

For the year in total, Pennsylvania’s retail and online sportsbooks produced $3.6bn in wagers, $3.3bn in online wagering, $189.7m in taxable revenue, and $64.5m in state taxes.

Only New Jersey, which shattered a US record with more than $6bn in bets in 2020, and Nevada have collected more in bets this year than Pennsylvania. But Pennsylvania is being challenged by Illinois, which reached $434.3m in October.

“Pennsylvania and Illinois make for such an interesting comparison, because their markets are so similar, including a nearly identical population,” added Cross.

“Pennsylvania is still the more mature market, though, and is well poised to shatter just about every record it set in 2020.”