by Wayne Parry, The Associated Press, May 12, 2022
ATLANTIC CITY — Inflation may be soaring, supply chains remain snarled and the coronavirus just won’t go away, but America’s casinos are humming right along, recording the best month in their history in March.
The American Gaming Association, the gambling industry’s national trade group, said Wednesday that U.S. commercial casinos won more than $5.3 billion from gamblers in March, the best single-month total ever. The previous record month was July 2021 at $4.92 billion.
There was little doubt that March would be a stellar revenue month for casinos nationwide after the Nevada Gaming Control Board in April reported that month to be the second biggest in state history. July 2021 remains the best ever for Nevada.
Tourism experts say there’s still room for growth in the Silver State because international travel and the convention and trade-show industry still haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels.
“The industry is encouraged by the strong performance in gaming revenue, which is good news for the state’s general fund,” said Virginia Valentine, president and CEO of the Nevada Resort Association. “For the industry to reach full recovery, we need non-gaming areas to return to normalized levels, especially midweek business. International visitation and trade show and convention attendance are improving but have not returned to 2019 numbers, both of which are critical components to Southern Nevada’s economy.”
There’s also room for growth nationwide with sports wagering being legalized in more states across the country.
“There’s a lot of online sports betting in there that’s new and wasn’t there last year,” said Josh Swissman, founding partner of the Las Vegas-based Strategy Organization. “So there are new revenue streams contributing to that figure that probably haven’t reached their maximum potential.”
Brendan Bussmann, founder of Las Vegas-based B Global, also noted potential growth from sports wagering, but added there could be headwinds that bring the growth cycle to a stop.
“There is still room for growth potential in the industry as it also continues to recover in various parts of the industry,” Bussmann said. “As we see sports betting growth that will also drive gaming revenue, there will be continued upside. But as our economy faces significant challenges, we are teetering on potential challenges that could slow the current growth trends.”
The casinos collectively also had their best first quarter ever, falling just short of the $14.35 billion they won from gamblers in the fourth quarter of last year, which was the highest three-month period in history.
Three states set quarterly revenue records to start this year: Arkansas ($147.4 million); Florida ($182 million), and New York ($996.6 million).
The numbers do not include tribal casinos, which report their income separately and are expected to report similarly positive results.
But while the national casino economy is doing well, there are pockets of sluggishness such as Atlantic City, where in-person casino revenue has not yet rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.
AGA releases State of the States report
“Consumers continue to seek out gaming’s entertainment options in record numbers,” said Bill Miller, the association’s president and CEO. He said the strong performance to start 2022 came “despite continued headwinds from supply chain constraints, labor shortages and the impact of soaring inflation.”
The trade group also released its annual State of the States report on Wednesday, examining gambling’s performance across the country.
As previously reported, nationwide casino revenue set an all-time high in 2021 at $53.03 billion, up 21 percent from the previous best year, 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
But the report includes new details, including that commercial casinos paid a record $11.69 billion in direct gambling tax revenue to state and local governments in 2021. That’s an increase of 75 percent from 2020 and 15 percent from 2019. This does not include the billions more paid in income, sales and other taxes, the association said.
It also ranked the largest casino markets in the U.S. in terms of revenue for 2021:
The Las Vegas Strip is first at $7.05 billion, followed by: Atlantic City ($2.57 billion); the Chicago area ($2.01 billion); Baltimore-Washington D.C. ($2 billion); the Gulf Coast ($1.61 billion); New York City ($1.46 billion); Philadelphia ($1.40 billion); Detroit ($1.29 billion); St. Louis ($1.03 billion); and the Boulder Strip in Nevada ($967 million).
The association divides Pennsylvania’s casinos into three separate markets: Philadelphia, the Poconos and Pittsburgh. Their combined revenue of nearly $2.88 billion would make them the second largest market in the country if judged as a single entity. It also counts downtown Las Vegas, and its $731 million in revenue, as a separate market.
Seven additional states legalized sports betting and two more added internet gambling in 2021.
The group reported many states saw gamblers spending more in casinos while visiting them in lower numbers compared with pre-pandemic 2019.
Average age dips
The average age of a casino patron last year was 43½, compared with 49½ in 2019.
Americans bet $57.7 billion on sports last year, more than twice the amount from 2020. That generated $4.33 billion in revenue, an increase of nearly 180 percent over 2020.
Internet gambling revenue reached $3.71 billion last year, and three states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan — each won more than $1 billion online. West Virginia’s internet gambling market reached $60.9 million in revenue in its first full year of operation, while Connecticut’s two internet casinos reported combined revenue of $47.6 million after launching in October.