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March Madness Factor: Pennsylvania Sportsbooks Bounce Back

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March Madness Factor: Pennsylvania Sportsbooks Bounce Back
Philadelphia Skyline. Photo by Master Wen

After a predictable February slump, data from US legal sports betting jurisdictions is revealing another foreseeable trend, a March bounce back. Pennsylvania is the latest legal sports betting state showing a spike in wagering action during the month, thanks in large part to March Madness, which had an enormous effect on the industry as a whole.

“March’s results show just how important the NCAA Tournament can be in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, giving a huge boost to sportsbooks at a time when football is dormant,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com.

“With last year’s tournament canceled, sportsbooks were left a revenue hole that they could not fill. Pennsylvania itself was a bit of an unknown, since the last time the NCAA Tournament was held online sports betting had yet to launch. This really sets sportsbooks up for a strong rest of the year, especially in comparison with 2020.”

According to PlayPennsylvania, the state’s sportsbooks combined for the second-highest monthly handle since its launch, and in the process set a new standard for revenues seen in their industry. March also saw the Keystone State’s sports betting platform cross a milestone $500 million in sportsbooks’ lifetime gross gaming revenue and maintain its position as one of the most productive jurisdictions in the US legal sports betting scene.

March’s Figures

According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the state’s sportsbooks took in $560.3 million in bets during March, the second highest handle the state has ever reported, behind only January’s $615.3 million record-handle. It was also the fifth time in the last six months that Pennsylvania bettors have helped the totals surpass $500 million, with last November’s $491.1 million being the only outlier over that span.

March’s handle represents a 10% increase from February’s total. Pennsylvania’s sports betting revenues also surged during March. Sportsbooks made $29.3 million in March, a healthy 79% increase from February’s disappointing dip.

91.8% or $514.3 million of the Pennsylvania’s March handle came from its mobile platform and about $10 million in tax revenue for state coffers was collected. An additional $587,000 in taxes was generated for local entities with retail wagering accounting for $45.9 million of the total Pennsylvania handle.

A Few Other Eye-Opening Figures

Year-over-year figures show just how far the Pennsylvania legal sports betting scene has come. The $560.3 million March handle is an astounding 326.6% spike from $131.3m in March 2020. Keep in mind however that March 2020 saw the first widespread shutdowns of global sports leagues, the 2020 NCAA basketball tournament and local casinos due to COVID-19.

Sports betting revenues for March also showed an incredible year-over-year increases. The $29.4 million in sportsbook profits is up 326.1% from March 2020.

“The year-over-year gains in revenue are staggering,” said Valerie Cross, analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com. “The pandemic-related shutdowns of the state’s retail casinos changed bettor behavior for the foreseeable future. This is evident as online casino gaming keeps setting records, even as brick-and-mortar restrictions are eased.”

With March’s betting handle, Pennsylvania sportsbooks have now taken in about $4.2 billion in the fiscal year with revenues over that span topping $220.6 million.

Tax contributions for Pennsylvania during this fiscal year which started in July have reached $75 million, with the local tax share coming in at a healthy $4.4 million. Over the lifetime of legal sports betting in the Keystone State, tax coffers have benefitted to the tune of $128.2 million. The high numbers can be attributed to Pennsylvania having the highest tax rate for legal sports betting in the country – 36%.

The Battle for #3

Pennsylvania had held down a solid #3 spot in terms of bet-friendly states in the US but was abruptly knocked out of their “podium-spot” by Illinois in February. But there are signs that Pennsylvania may be able to regain their Top-3 spot back perhaps as early as this month.

The Keystone State March surge will certainly help with that goal, as will the fact that Illinois curiously reverted back to an antiquated and cumbersome in-person only sign-up requirement for its mobile betting apps. This after COVID-related executive orders in Illinois allowed for remote registration for close to a year.

April’s Outlook

Every sportsbook operating in Pennsylvania showed significant increases in March with the exception of Penn National’s Barstool Sportsbook, which in itself is a curious development. That hard-to-understand occurrence is likely to change in the future, which should only strengthen the Pennsylvania scene on the whole.

So, a brief hiccup in February paved way for a predictable and optimism-inspiring March bump for the Pennsylvania legal sports betting scene. Pennsylvania has been one of the most reliable jurisdictions in the country thus far and after a February slide, a pandemic that decimated the norms of society and even with another competing state pushing Pennsylvania, at least temporarily, out of their Top-3 bet-friendly state position, the Keystone State has proven that it will keep producing and will remain among the elite jurisdictions in the US legal sports betting scene.