Any concerns about the legal sports betting scene in Pennsylvania were quickly erased Tuesday when December’s numbers were released and produced yet another monthly handle record for the state. Pennsylvania bucked a trend in November of steady and bankable increases for participating states within the legal sports betting space and actually saw a decline in bets taken in. Thankfully, the Keystone State was able to return to its winning ways in December.
November’s handle-decline was simply a speedbump on the Keystone State’s road to sports wagering success. November’s numbers represented a $34 million decline from the then-record $525.8 million October haul. December’s bounce-back helped Pennsylvania cement its status as a “Top-3” Betting State in America, albeit far behind the two sitting in the #1 and #2 position.
Breaking Down December
December was the best-ever month for the legal sports betting industry in Pennsylvania. A $548.6 million handle last month was an impressive 11.5% increase from the somewhat disappointing $491.9 million November haul and a nearly $25 million jump from the previous-record $525.8 million set in October.
Not shockingly, it was Pennsylvania’s mobile sports betting apps that made up the bulk of the overall handle. An astounding $535.2 million or 97.6% of the December figure came from internet wagers, a 19.6% increase from November’s $447.4 million.
Sports betting revenue came in at $45.3 million, which translates to $34.1 million in taxable revenue after the $11.3 million in promo credits are factored in, an 8.8% increase. That was slightly off, by over $3 million of the record-$39.4 million made in November. Off of that $12.3 million in tax revenue was generated for the Keystone State’s state and local coffers.
Compared to December 2019…
Pennsylvania saw a major spike in the amount of legal sports bets taken in last month when compared to December 2019. The December 2020 overall handle of $548.6 was an increase of 60.1% from December 2019’s $342.6 million.
Online betting over the 365-day period also saw huge increases. December’s online sports betting handle of $535.2 million was up 79.9% over December 2019’s $297.4 million and taxable gross sports betting revenue spiked 199.4% to $34.1 million in December 2020 from $11.4 million in December 2019.
Looking back at 2020
2020 was a remarkable year for the legal sports betting industry in the US. It fought regulation issues, COVID-related sports shutdowns, and casino capacity limits en route to a record year. Sports betting essentially lost out on four months of major US sports and is still dealing with limited capacity in Pennsylvania’s retail gambling outlets.
When the dust settled on the 2020 sports betting year, Pennsylvania’s 13 operating casinos, fantasy sports operators, and truck stops took in $3.65 billion in total handle in 2020. Revenues for the entire year came in at $201 million, with the state collecting a total of $47.8 million in taxes thanks to their 36% tax rate.
Competition for the #3 spot
Pennsylvania has been a solid and dependable member of the legal sports betting “Top-3 Club” but may have some competition as we head deeper into 2021. There is no way that New Jersey will be caught anytime soon for the #1 overall spot – they reported a U.S. record of $996.3 million handle in December – nearly double that of Pennsylvania and Nevada, which hasn’t reported their December figures just yet. Nevada looks as though they will maintain their #2 position going forward.
As for the #3 spot, there’s are a trio of states knocking on Pennsylvania’s door. Colorado and Illinois, relative newcomers to the legal sports betting scene have shown exponential growth since their recent launches and could challenge sooner than later. Michigan has been identified as another market to keep a close eye on.
Looking Into the Crystal Ball
It is no secret as to what the driver of the Pennsylvania legal sports betting scene will be going forward – its mobile platform.
Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com, went on record this week, saying: “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.”
With all of the big sports betting providers firmly established in Pennsylvania, including Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM and the two DFS behemoths, Pennsylvania’s platform should remain strong, especially if retail wagering emerges from their COVID-forced slowdowns. 2020 was great for Pennsylvania, 2021 figures to be even better.