Online Gaming Boom Could Continue, Even After Casinos Reopen

With casinos closed due to Covid-19, online gambling is enjoying a surge. With the exception of sports betting, iGaming grew 66 percent year-on-year to $65 million in New Jersey in March. Analysts believe the trend could continue after casinos reopen.

Casinos may be closed and sports betting may be minimal due to the Covid-19 virus, but online gambling is booming across the U.S. And that may lead to more states legalizing it. Morgan Stanley Analyst Thomas Allen said, “We believe the impact of Covid-19 could spur more states to legalize online casino and sports betting.”

In March, New Jersey revenues from online slots and table games climbed 66 percent to $65 million. Based on those numbers, and taking into account that New Jersey casinos temporarily closed in March, Allen said gambling revenue in New Jersey, excluding sports betting, could exceed $700 million this year, up from $483 million in 2019.

He added, “Covid-19 will likely have a negative impact on state budgetary positions, forcing them to look for new sources of taxes. In addition, legalization and the rollout of online forms of gambling can be much quicker than building brick-and-mortar casinos. Massachusetts a good example. Finally, online can be at least a slight offset to lost revenues during phases of social distancing as we are experiencing today.”

Currently only a handful of states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Nevada, allow online casino gambling. More than 15 states permit online sports betting and even more allow sports betting at physical casinos.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released revenue figures for March which, predictably, revealed a deep year-on-year drop with all of the state’s 12 casinos shuttered for half the month. Revenues for Mach were down by 51 percent overall for the month, compared to the $316 million logged in March 2019.

However, the sole bright spot in Pennsylvania was online. Internet casino revenues were up by 25 percent compared to March 2019, as gamblers continue to seek out the iGaming option while casinos are closed.

“Pennsylvania is one of the few states that has an online gaming option,” said Doug Harbach, spokesman for the Gaming Control Board, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That has continued to keep tax revenue flowing.”

For the first quarter, Pennsylvania online casinos generated more than $57 million in wagers compared to $34 million the entire first half of 2019.

Meanwhile, neighboring Delaware, along with Pennsylvania and New Jersey one of the three Northeastern state with online gaming, reported similar results. Online gaming revenue in Delaware rose by 78 percent to $515,000 in March. While final revenue numbers for the casinos were unavailable at press time, results were expected to be down by at least half from just under $12 million the same month last year.

Most online sports bets are placed on mobile phones. Experts say once professional sports resume, the trend may continue, causing fewer people to visit a casino for traditional games like blackjack, craps, and slots.

Sports bettors don’t have a lot of action right now. Five U.S. Thoroughbred horseracing tracks remain open, but other offerings are limited to table tennis from Russia, pro basketball from Taiwan and English darts.