US Casinos: The Worst Year in Ages

The ongoing pandemic has left a mark on many industries. Countless movies are on hold because of the closure of movie theaters, work on some of the most anticipated TV shows have been suspended, video games have been delayed, hotels were closed, and airports are deserted. One of the branches of the vast entertainment industry that felt the full effect of the lockdowns was land-based gambling, especially in the US. Casinos had one of their worst years in decades.

Hit hard

A recently published report by the American Gaming Association (AGA) shed some light on just how much casinos across the US were hit by the pandemic. In March, the almost 1,000 commercial casinos were forced to be closed across the country, and some of them have not reopened to this day. After a promising beginning of the year – the first two months of the year saw the revenues grow by more than 10% compared to the same period of last year – the casinos’ income has suddenly fallen to zero. Overall, the total gross gaming revenue (GGR) of the branch fell by close to 80% in the second quarter of 2020, with both slot machine and table game revenues breaking negative records.

“COVID-19 has undoubtedly posed the most difficult economic challenge the gaming industry has ever faced,” AGA CEO Bill Miller said. But the strong demand for its services has helped it recover some of the losses: after the reopening of casinos, several of them have seen serious growth compared to the previous year.

Online growth

Online casinos, in turn, have seen their best year so far in the US. Gambling over the internet is only legal in six states so far but in each of them, iGaming has shown strong growth, overtaking sports betting for the first time. In the second quarter of 2020, iGaming has generated more than $400 million in revenues, growing by a staggering 253% compared to the same period of the previous year.

Internationally, online casinos have continued to thrive. Online casinos have seen solid growth, undoubtedly helped by the news of the several jackpot wins this year, including the $12 million Mega Moolah payout at the JackpotCity online casino. The freemium model adopted by these gaming outlets and the casual nature of the games attracts many customers, not to mention the accessible nature of the games on all platforms.

Sports betting rollercoaster

Sports were shut down pretty much all over the world this spring, leaving sportsbooks without their raison d’être. As you might expect, this left a massive hole in their revenues. When sports returned, though, the vast majority of the sports leagues across the globe were rushing through the remainder of their seasons, making up for the lost time with a much tighter schedule. And this was good news for bookmakers.

With American sports gaining popularity across the pond, and European sports making their way into the US (the English Premier League is among the many markets covered by US bookmakers), punters had a great selection of sports to bet on this summer. This, along with the increasing number of regulated betting options, has boosted the revenues of bookmakers across the board: the GGR of sports betting in the US has grown by 10% year-on-year.

The gaming industry has suffered many losses this year – but it’s recovering. The reopening of casinos – observing strict regulations on social distancing and any other measures needed for a safe and secure experience – and the return of sports will help it recover from perhaps the worst year it had for ages. Or, as Miller put it, “our resilience in the midst of such adversity, is evidence of the industry’s foundation for continued success as we emerge from the pandemic.”