According to data released by the American Gaming Association, the US commercial gaming industry marked its worst year in business in 17 years. This is thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that ground businesses to a halt and saw governments across the world impose tough restrictions to contain the spread of the highly contagious virus. The gross gaming revenues from commercially licensed gaming such as online and retail sports betting, iGaming operations, and state-approved casinos stood at $30 billion. This represented a 31% decline from 2019, which translates to approximately $13.6 billion.
In a statement, Bill Miller, AGA President and CEO, said the decline in revenues emphasized the importance of hurried federal relief as well as accelerated vaccine distribution to get the gaming industry recovering in 2021. Furthermore, the CEO said the numbers showed just how much COVID-19 ravaged various industries economically.
This decline in revenues marked the lowest since 2003. Technically, the revenues recorded stood at $29.98 billion before rounding off to $30 billion. According to the AGA, only 11 states had legalized gaming. Today, the District of Columbia and 29 other states offer some form of commercial gaming.
Land-based casinos in the US were forced to halt operations by the end of March due to the pandemic. In May or June, some resumed operations albeit with few slot machines and table seats to adhere to government regulations on social distancing. Therefore, casinos ended up losing valuable operational days, resulting in revenue losses.
According to the AGA, commercial casinos lost a joint of 45,602 operational days. This represents a 26.7% loss of the available days due to closures. Having said that, New Mexico and New York suffered the highest losses in commercial operation days at 80% and 48.4% respectively. South Dakota, on the other hand, suffered the least losses at 16%. Even so, major casinos re-opened their doors to the public in June although operators with several properties along the Vegas strip reopened in phases based on demand.
The COVID-19 may have wreaked havoc in multiple areas in the retail gambling industry but it wasn’t all gloomy. iGaming companies saw a dramatic increase in revenues from card games and online casinos. According to the AGA, the iGaming sector saw a 200% increase representing $1.6 billion in gross gaming revenue.
In perspective, the sports betting sector contributed more revenue at over $1.5 billion. This represented a 70% rise from the year before. The two revenue numbers show some similarity but the revenues from sports betting came from a total of 18 states. On the other hand, it took only four states, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware for iGaming to generate that figure.
The closure of land-based casinos played a major role in the increased revenues. However, these are significant numbers, considering the pandemic’s effects on the economy. In fact, the numbers ended getting Indiana’s attention to the point that they are now considering legalizing iGaming in 2021.