The news for the Pennsylvania casino industry continues to be less-than-stellar, as total gaming revenue dropped year-over-year in February.
The PA casino numbers, at a glance
Revenue for PA’s 12 casinos in February came in at $258.6 million. That’s a large number, to be sure, but it’s a drop of about $10 million, or 3.7 percent, from last February. Most of that is due to a poor showing in slot machine revenue.
Of course, last year was a leap year with an extra day in February, and the drop is at least partially attributable to that. But February in 2016 and 2017 had the same number of weekends, when the rubber meets the road in terms of gaming revenue.
Just two casinos — Sands Bethlehem and Lady Luck Nemacolin — experienced YoY increases in revenue.
The downward trend of PA gambling revenue
In a vacuum, February might not be that concerning.
But this has been a trend gaining momentum for several months. It’s the fifth straight month where PA slot revenue has decreased. That’s certainly a trend that can’t simply be chalked up to how the calendar falls.
Table-game revenue increases have been able to hide the problem and at least keep gaming revenue flat or increasing slightly in recent months. But this February marked the end of that as table games dropped as well.
Even if you blame the decrease entirely on the calendar, it’s clear the PA casino industry is no longer expanding.
Online gambling the answer?
It’s clear PA lawmakers want to do something to increase gambling revenue, given the introduction of new bills and chatter in the statehouse. That need becomes even more necessary with existing gaming revenue moving in the wrong direction.
One of the possible answers in the context of a larger gambling expansion: Online gambling. Some casinos and lawmakers have expressed concerns that online casinos and poker would cannibalize existing revenue, although that’s an idea that is continuously being debunked:
- Ten of the state’s 12 casinos say online gambling would be a boon to business.
- The proposed “low” tax rate for iGaming would not force business from physical casinos to online casinos.
- Evidence from both Caesars NJ and Golden Nugget casino shows that online gambling helps land-based casinos, and activates and attracts new customers.
Will PA lawmakers consider the wealth of evidence about online gambling when considering how to help the PA casino industry? We will find out of the course of this spring as the PA gambling expansion bill debate picks up steam.