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Pennsylvania Latest to Show January Sports Betting Surge

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Pennsylvania Latest to Show January Sports Betting Surge
General View of Heinz Field. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images/AFP

It has become a monthly right of passage for those who monitor sports betting numbers out of participating legalized US states – wait on the handles of the “Big Dogs” and marvel about how they have managed to increase with each and every month of operation.

The latest state report such a surge is Pennsylvania. Its sports betting platform eclipsed the $600 million mark in January, marking the second straight month of handle-records. Like many of its competing jurisdictions, Pennsylvania seems to have shrugged off the affects of COVID-19 and has brought about a serious sense of optimism that at the end of 2021, we could be looking back on a legal betting platform that generated $6 billion in bets.

Pennsylvania’s January haul

According to figures released Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, a record $615.3 million was taken in by the state’s sportsbooks in January, making it just the third state to cross the $600 million threshold. That number is up from the previous record of $548.6 million in December.

Unfortunately for the state, revenues didn’t follow suit. In fact, they dipped just a bit to $33.9 million, slightly less than the $34.1 million in December. A healthy $11.5 million in taxes was collected off of Pennsylvania’s January sportsbook profits.

Not shockingly, it was Pennsylvania’s robust mobile wagering platform that dominated the record-handle. 94% or nearly $580 million of the $615 million handle was produced by mobile apps in January – impressive but still slightly less than the 97.6% it was responsible for in December.

Year-over-year

Year-over-year totals from participating states continue to show the exponential growth of the legal sports betting industry in the US. Pennsylvania’s is no different.

As far as handles go in Pennsylvania’s January 2021’s $615.3 million is a 67.6% jump from the one to start off 2020 when $348.4 million in bets was reported. Revenues for January 2021 also showed a tangible year-over-year spike. In January 2020, the state’s sportsbooks made $22.8 million while last month, they made $33.9 million.

So far, since Pennsylvania’s legal sports betting launch in November 2018, $111.7 million in taxes have flowed to state and local coffers, thanks in part to the state owning the highest tax rate (36%) among participating jurisdictions. Pennsylvania represents only the second jurisdiction to cross that magical $100 million mark in tax contributions – and no other jurisdiction is even close.

More retail contributions finally coming?

Retail sportsbooks reopened January 4 after being shuttered throughout the bulk of December. Their contributions toward Pennsylvania’s totals cannot be overstated. January’s retail contribution was $35.4 million, up from $13.4 million in December and that number should continue to climb as COVID restrictions are slowly eased.

“Casino closures have certainly spurred online casinos and online sportsbook betting, which will provide some long-term benefits for the industry,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com. “But for the state’s gaming industry to truly be healthy, it needs to see a full recovery with retail betting. If the pandemic continues to recede, that return to health could happen by the second half of 2021.”

Moving forward

With the changing of the calendar to 2021 came a sense of optimism in the US – that things would start to slowly return to “normal” and that COVID-19 was starting to calm. And that is certainly good news for the legal sports betting industry across the US.

“A return to relatively normal — with a healthy retail market and a dependable sports schedule — would be enough to fuel growth in Pennsylvania’s gaming industry,” Gouker said. “There are a lot of positive signs right now as sportsbooks and online casinos continue to gain steam, and hopefully, the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos begin to regain their footing. If things do return to normal, the gaming industry should see significant gains across the board in 2021.”

As it stands…

Pennsylvania is currently the #3 ranked bet-friendly state in the US, behind New Jersey and Nevada and is close to leapfrogging Nevada, thanks mostly to its strong mobile betting sector. Pennsylvania closed out 2020 with $3.6 billion in bets, with Nevada at $4.2 billion and Jersey at $6 billion.

The Keystone State will likely never be touched in its quest for the most tax contributions made – no other state is close to the 36% rate they currently boast.

But Pennsylvania could soon be in danger of losing their “Top-3” spot they have enjoyed for the better part of a year. Colorado, Illinois and Michigan are making a strong charge toward a podium position and with higher populations and arguably more rabid fan bases, they could soon be threatening Pennsylvania’s position.

As it stands, Pennsylvania’s sports betting industry is the undisputed bronze-medal holder in the unofficial handle-contest within the US legal sports betting industry. While that may change in the future, for now nobody can take it away from them right now.