- Pennsylvania’s sports betting industry is still struggling because of COVID-19, but a huge increase in betting handle for online slots and table games has helped cushion the blow.
- Pennsylvania’s online gambling industry will prove immensely helpful in mitigating the statewide economic crisis caused by the virus.
- Sportsbooks are likely at least two or three months away from a full financial recovery.
- Online gambling revenues have been immensely helpful for Pennsylvania during this crisis, and this entire experience could provide a valuable example for other states to consider legalizing and regulating online gambling.
HARRISBURG, Penn. – While Pennsylvania’s sports betting industry is floundering as a result of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, online slots and other types of online gambling have helped mitigate the financial blow.
In May, Pennsylvania residents wagered $1.06 billion on online slots in May—the highest monthly total ever and a more than $300 million increase from April.
Table games likewise saw a huge increase in betting handle up to $778.5 million—up over $150 million from April.
The ubiquity of online gambling in Pennsylvania has put the state in a unique position in terms of post-COVID-19 financial viability.
Online gambling revenues have helped cushion the blow of the virus and consistently generate revenue for both the Pennsylvania government and its gambling operators.
Pennsylvania sportsbooks are likely looking at least two more months of severely depressed handle and revenue numbers because of a lack of North American sports leagues to bet on.
Other online gambling options should help keep revenue (and taxes) flowing, however.
Impact Of Online Gambling Revenue In Pennsylvania
It can’t be overstated how important the money being generated by USA online slots, table games, and sports betting is to both the Pennsylvania economy and to statewide public health.
The economic crisis created by the coronavirus took a severe toll on state budgets and has created a vital need for tax revenue. In May, Pennsylvania online gambling as a collective industry raised $120 million in state taxes.
The flexibility provided by online gambling has also given Pennsylvania more leeway in its reopening procedures for brick-and-mortar casinos and sportsbooks.
The state has continued generating money relatively unabated during the pandemic and corresponding quarantine period, so there was less financial pressure to reopen casinos than there was in states like Nevada or West Virginia, where retail casinos make up the overwhelming bulk of gambling revenues.
Pennsylvania casinos can only reopen once their county of operation reaches the so-called “green phase”, meaning that the county has gone through more restrictive stages of quarantine and been deemed safe for limited business operations.
Other states have rushed into reopening casinos statewide without concern for the public health situation in individual municipalities, which could lead to a surge in infections.
Even without the public health aspect, other states could look at Pennsylvania as a case study in the financial value of regulated online gambling and look to pass their own gambling legislation in 2021.
When Will Sports Betting Revenues Return To Normal?
Pennsylvania handled only $77.5 million in sports wagers in May and earned only $4.6 million in revenue.
These numbers indicate month-over-month growth, but still fall woefully short of pre-virus totals, and full recovery of the Pennsylvania sports betting industry remains a top priority.
Both the NBA and MLS remain committed to a return to play at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports in late July—the first two major American professional sports leagues to resume their seasons after the mid-March shutdown.
The betting public has already shown a voracious appetite for sports betting even in the absence of popular sporting events. Once sports schedules are allowed to resume as normal, expect handle and revenue to fully recover within a few months.
The biggest hurdle to a return to normalcy right now is the ongoing labor dispute in Major League Baseball—a dispute that has no end in sight.
Until MLB’s owners and players association can agree on terms for a shortened baseball season, sports betting handle and revenue will likely remain moderately deflated.