Pennsylvania sportsbooks return to record-breaking ways in December

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Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks and online casinos were back on record-breaking track during December, setting new highs while combining to generate more than $100m in revenue.

The end-of-year push elevated the state’s sports betting handle to more than $3.5bn for 2020, a staggering total in a year when four months of major US sports were canceled and retail outlets have been shuttered, according to analysts from PlayPennsylvania, which provides news and analysis of the state’s gaming industry.

After a one-month dip below $500m, Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks accepted $548.6m in wagers in December, as bets rose 11.5% from $491.9m in November and topped the record $525.8m record set in October.

Taxable operator revenue hit $34.1m, below the record $37.4m in November, which generated $11.6m in state taxes and $681,191 in local share assessments.

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

For all of 2020, Pennsylvania’s retail and online sportsbooks produced $3.6 bn in wagers, up 140.3% from $1.5 billion in 2019; $3.3bn in online wagering, up 208.4% from $1.1bn in 2019; $189.7m in taxable revenue, up 125.5% from $84.1m in 2019; and $64.5m in state taxes.

Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com, noted: “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.

“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.”

Pennsylvania was bettered only by New Jersey, which shattered a US record with more than $6bn in bets in 2020, and Nevada. But the Keystone State’s grip on third place is being challenged by Illinois, which reached $434.3m in October, the market’s fourth full month of operation.

“Pennsylvania and Illinois make for such an interesting comparison, because their markets are so similar, including a nearly identical population,” said Valerie Cross, analyst for PlayPennsylvania. “Pennsylvania is still the more mature market, though, and is well poised to shatter just about every record it set in 2020.”

With retail sportsbooks shut down for most of the month, 97.6%, or $548.6m, of all bets were made online in December, which was up from 91% in November. FanDuel Sportsbook/Valley Forge Casino became the first to top $200m in online wagers in a month with $207.6m in December, up 17.5% from $176.7m wagered in November.

Those bets produced $7.1m in taxable revenue, down from $15.1m in November. DraftKings/The Meadows remained in second place with $130.9m in bets, up from $109.9m in November. That yielded $5.4m in taxable revenue.

Penn National continues to make its own dent in the market. The Hollywood Casino license, which includes Penn National’s Barstool-branded app and the recently launched BetMGM app, grew to $71.8m in bets from $55.7m. That produced a market-leading $13.9m in taxable revenue.

“The successful launch of Barstool proves there is still some room for growth in the Pennsylvania market, both in terms of overall market size and in introducing new operators,” Gouker said. “To that point, the addition of another major player such as BetMGM makes Pennsylvania one of the most competitive markets in the U.S. That should bode well for the year ahead.”

Retail sportsbooks, which were closed on December 12, fell to $13.4m in bets from $45.1m in December 2019. Sportsbooks won $1.2m on those bets, down from $3m in December 2019. The top retail sportsbook was Parx Casino with $4.3m in bets.

Online casinos and poker rooms, meanwhile, reached $70m in monthly revenue for the first time. Online casinos and poker took in $71.6m in gross operator revenue, shattering the record $59.8m set in November. 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.

December’s revenue generated $19.3mi in state taxes and another $9.8m in local share assessments and county grants.

Online casino games and poker, launched in late 2019, have been a boon to Pennsylvania, particularly after retail casinos were shuttered in March. With its 12 casinos closed for months, 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,” Cross said. “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.”

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