The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the gaming industry in 2020, causing a 31 percent drop in commercial gaming revenue and a significant shakeup in the top 20 casino markets. While the pandemic overwhelmed traditional gaming sectors, the industry experienced monumental growth in emerging verticals like sports betting and iGaming. All of last year’s shifts in the commercial gaming landscape at both the state and national levels are covered in detail in American Gaming Association’s (AGA) State of the States 2021: The AGA Survey of the Commercial Casino Industry.
Highlights from the report include:
- 2020 marked the industry’s lowest total annual revenue since 2003, with consumer spending on commercial gaming falling to $29.98 billion, down 31 percent from 2019.
- All 25 states with physical commercial casino gaming reported lower revenue than in 2019.
- Americans legally wagered $21.5 billion on sports, compared to $13 billion in 2019. Revenue from legal sports betting operations increased 69 percent to $1.5 billion.
- The Baltimore-Washington, D.C. gaming market is now the third largest in the country, surpassing Chicagoland and trailing only the Las Vegas Strip and Atlantic City. The Gulf Coast, St. Louis and Shreveport/Bossier City markets all jumped several spots in the top 20 rankings.
“The gaming industry faced enormous challenges in 2020 – and we also saw significant changes, as player demographics shifted and emerging verticals saw strong growth,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “From sharp revenue declines, to booming legal sports betting activity and overwhelming voter enthusiasm behind gaming, this year’s report reflects both the highs and lows of the past year.”
During the first two months of 2020, US commercial gaming revenue was up 11.4 percent compared to the same time in 2019. However, due to mandated casino closures and capacity restrictions, revenue fell significantly for the remaining 10 months of the year, beginning in March when all US casinos shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Collectively, America’s commercial casinos lost more than 45,600 business days due to pandemic-related closures last year, meaning they were closed for approximately 27 percent of the year on average.
By the end of the year, 19 states plus the District of Columbia had active legal sports betting markets. Despite land-based casino closures and the suspension of major sporting events in the spring, sports betting saw significant growth, with Americans legally wagering more than $21.5 billion on sports last year.
In a survey conducted in April 2020, AGA member company executives, including commercial and tribal operator and supplier CEOs and CFOs, estimated a revenue decline of slightly more than 40 percent in 2020 and a timetable for recovery of up to two years. Q1 2021’s commercial gaming revenue numbers tied for the highest-grossing quarterly total ever, suggesting a quicker recovery than anticipated.
“The first quarter of 2021 clearly shows that consumer interest in gaming never waned, despite the challenges of 2020,” said Miller. “This momentum is a direct result of our industry’s ability to provide safe environments for our employees and guests to return to and is a strong indicator that our recovery is on the horizon.”