The commercial gaming scene in the US last year suffered greatly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the American Gaming Association (AGA) has now put a number on the extent of the damage. According to a report published by the group yesterday, US commercial gaming operations lost 31% of the revenue they had seen a year earlier, recording the lowest level experienced since 2013. Everyone is now looking at 2021 to help them recuperate lost ground.
Commercial casinos were forced to cut out around 27% of their normal working schedules last year, opening for a combined 124,882 days. A year earlier, that figure was 170,484 across all properties. As a result of the reduction and states’ restrictions on casino activity, the US commercial gaming industry was able to generate just about $30 billion by the time the year closed. The crux of the damage came in the second and third quarters, with the fourth quarter finally seeing a slight rebound. It produced $9.2 billion for the country’s casinos, a sequential increase of 1.7% over the third-quarter results, but that was still off by 17% from the fourth-quarter activity of 2019.
Per the AGA’s report, President and CEO Bill Miller asserts, “COVID-19 devastated our business and the employees and communities across the country that rely on casino gaming’s success. We have persevered by leading responsible reopening efforts, supporting our employees, and extending a hand to our communities. Still, these numbers show the economic realities of COVID-19 and underscore the importance of targeted federal relief and ramped-up vaccine distribution to accelerate gaming’s recovery in 2021.”
As the industry started to rebound last summer, there has been a slow return to normal activity by casinos. Now, there are 911 open out of the total 998 in the country; however, many are still operating at greatly reduced capacities. Just this week, Nevada’s casinos were allowed to increase their occupancy to 35% of their normal levels after spending months at 25% or less. Even though there are still more casinos that could potentially reopen this year, the reality is that some of those are going to be permanently shuttered due to a lack of funds.
The good news is that, despite the damage to casino operations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there were other gambling segments that helped counter the losses. In 2018, the US Supreme Court correctly told major sports leagues and some Capitol Hill politicians that their attempts at keeping sports gambling out of states were completely wrong, and sports wagers have helped to give legal states support during the COVID-19 crisis. $1.5 billion in sports gambling revenue was reported for last year, a year-on-year increase of 69%. In addition, the iGaming segment also did well, adding another $1.6 billion.