Casinos in the United States had a most difficult 2020, but the downturn caused by the pandemic didn’t last long, as 2021 is their best year on record.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) revealed today that commercial casinos have generated record gaming revenue in 2021. January through October, gross gaming revenue (GGR) from traditional casino gaming, sports betting, and iGaming totals approximately $43.43 billion. That’s just shy of the all-time record of $43.65 billion set in 2019.
With November numbers still being counted, and December remaining, the US gaming industry will set a new all-time GGR high in 2021.
The AGA is the primary lobbying arm of the US commercial gaming industry. The organization represents the interests of casinos, sports betting operators, iGaming firms, and other gaming sectors in the nation’s capital.
Against All Odds
During the height of COVID-19, casino executives theorized that an abundance of repressed gaming activity would result in a quick recovery. Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox and downtown Las Vegas casino magnate Derek Stevens both likened their outlooks to the Roaring 20s when Americans fueled a period of economic prosperity after the ending of World War I and the Spanish flu.
Not everyone shared such sunny forecasts. Wall Street investors sold off stakes in casino companies in vast volumes. Major companies like MGM Resorts, Wynn, Las Vegas Sands, and Caesars Entertainment lost tens of billions of dollars in market valuation in the first half of 2020.
But Maddox, Stevens, and others turned out to be right, as numerous state gaming markets experienced record play in the second half of 2020. The momentum has spilled over to 2021.
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and New Jersey are just a few of the states reporting record GGR this year.
Commercial gaming revenue has rebounded from its worst year since 2003 to its best year ever,” declared AGA President and CEO Bill Miller.
Prior to 2021, the AGA explains that no month had ever eclipsed the $4 billion mark in monthly commercial gaming revenue. In 2021, monthly GGR has topped $4 billion in eight consecutive months. In November, total commercial GGR nationwide was $4.75 billion.
iGaming, Sports Betting Responsible
There’s little argument against the claim that online gambling and sports betting is responsible for the record commercial GGR being experienced in the US.
Oddsmakers have kept $3.16 billion of the bets they’ve accepted January through October. Legal iGaming, which is only available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, and Delaware, has generated GGR of $2.98 billion. Nevada has legal online poker, but no interactive slots and table games.
Sports betting only became a states’ right in May 2018 after the Supreme Court said the federal ban that limited such gambling to Nevada was unconstitutional. iGaming is also still in its infancy.
Despite the expanding gaming options, brick-and-mortar slots and tables are faring well. January through October GGR from retail slots and tables totaled more than $34.2 billion. That’s 43 percent better than 2020. The AGA says October brick-and-mortar revenue also outpaced pre-pandemic October 2019.
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