The coronavirus pandemic is maintaining its assault on every aspect of society and continuing to deal a body-blow to previously thriving businesses in the United States. The legal betting industry in the US has been especially hard hit as shown by the recent numbers released by participating states. The latest to show intense decline is Pennsylvania, one of the top-3 betting states in the Union.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board came out with its March numbers on Thursday and despite a few unexpected positive signs, the overall results were a clear eye-opener for the state. Pennsylvania's figures follow an obvious downturn that has been consistent with other legal betting
heavyweights and thanks to the shuttering all of their 12 casinos by mid-March, there is no relief in sight. Nevada, Indiana and New Jersey all report steep declines over the same period.
With the sporting world virtually shut down and with casinos closed, it isn't a shock to see states' handles declining. It is the scope of the drops that have raised a few eyebrows. Pennsylvania took in a very respectable $329 million in sports bets in February, usually a month characterized by a slight dip in the number of bets recorded. March on the other hand saw Pennsylvania record just a $131.3 million handle which amounts to an astounding 60% month-on-month drop.
If March Madness betting was available (it would have been the first time in Pennsylvania), it isn’t a stretch to think the state would have reached $370 million in handle with an estimated $19 million in revenue if COVID-19 hadn’t entered the scene. As it stands, Pennsylvania’s March handle was the lowest since August, 2019 when Pennsylvania’s platform was in relative infancy and it had only four online sportsbooks, compared to the nine right now.
Revenues were spared a cliff-like drop thanks in part to a high hold which came in at nearly 13% – double what February’s hold was. Pennsylvania sportsbooks collected $6.9 million in adjusted gross sports betting revenue in March, which was actually an increase from $4.72 million in February – a 45.9% jump.
You can't blame the mobile or iGaming
Pennsylvania has traditionally been one of the leaders in the US with regards to its mobile betting platform and March was no different. Pennsylvania's success in that space may be the reason it will have the ability to bounce back post-COVID. Over 90% of Pennsylvania's overall handle in March or $118.3 million was taken in via mobile apps – the first time ever that any state has recorded north of 90% mobile share in a single month.
Another huge reason that Pennsylvania's sportsbooks were able to record any type of revenue at all was the performance of online poker, which is available in just four states including Pennsylvania. The state’s online poker revenue in March 2020 and $3,133,019, an impressive 71.2% increase. iGaming was also strong. Gross revenue for iGaming in March in Pennsylvania was $24,265,720. That's a 24.5% increase over February's $19,490,815 – those figures include online slots, poker and table games.
Fears for April
March’s numbers were certainly miserable but April’s will be worse. March saw at least half a month of regular sports betting and April likely won’t see one day of Major Sports or a return to normal traffic for sportsbooks around the world.
You can’t expect NFL Draft, eSports betting and Table Tennis to carry Pennsylvania sportsbooks for April and while there is a ton of optimism with those events, they definitely won’t replicate real action by real athletes. It looks like online poker, eSports and iGaming will have to float the Pennsylvania sports betting scene’s for April and perhaps beyond.