VSO Analysis: The Scale of the US Gambling Sector’s Pandemic Recovery in 2021

  • US gambling markets have reported 2021 results awash with record-breaking figures
  • Pennsylvania revenue hit $4.73bn for the year, up 79% y-o-y and a new state record 
  • Sports betting helped New Jersey increase gaming revenue 64% from its 2020 total
  • Nevada continues to lead the way in recovery, posting a record $13.4bn in 2021 revenue
Post COVID-19 written on road
VSO News has taken a look at the full-year 2021 results of major US gambling states to assess the sector’s pandemic recovery. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Shaking off 2020

The US gambling industry suffered immensely in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic swiftly tightened its grip on the sector. Casinos across the nation closed their doors while their employees could only wait to hear if they still had jobs at all.

the sector has well and truly woken from its slumber

In contrast, 2021 painted a different picture entirely. Despite the spread of the Omicron variant towards the latter half of the year, casinos and retail sportsbooks reopened with renewed vigor, and customers flooded through their doors thanks to pent-up demand. Like a once dormant beast, the sector has well and truly woken from its slumber.

To get an idea of how well the industry has recovered from the traumatic experience of 2020, VegasSlotsOnline News has taken a look at the US’s largest gambling states. All three have now released complete revenue results for last year, and they’re full of record-breaking figures.

Pennsylvania sets $4.73bn benchmark

With the third-largest gambling market in the US, Pennsylvania can provide a good marker for how the sector is performing. According to data released by its gaming regulator earlier this month, PA casinos generated revenue of $4.73bn for the full-year 2021. That surpassed the previous year by around $2bn, or 79%, also setting a new state record.

In 2021, Pennsylvania generated $2.2bn from slot machines and $924.9m from table games. Three of the five casinos that brought in the most cash came from the Philadelphia area. Bensalem’s Parx Casino was the most profitable with $687.5m, followed by Penn National’s Hollywood Casino in Grantville with $648.3m.

$340.1m of gambling revenue came through sports wagering

Sports betting and iGaming continued to play a huge part in the state’s gambling success. Around $340.1m of gambling revenue came through sports wagering, up 79% year-on-year, while internet gambling provided an even greater boost, almost doubling from 2020 at $1.1bn.

The future certainly seems bright for Pennsylvania as it continues to challenge New Jersey for gambling dominance.

New Jersey betting boosts profits

Casinos in Atlantic City closed in March 2020 and only began reopening four months later with operating restrictions. Last year, they finally opened their doors at full capacity from May, allowing the gambling hub to double down on its recovery efforts. As a result, the state posted year-to-December revenue of $4.74bn, a sizable increase of 64% from 2020.

a new highest yearly total for any state in the US

Much like in Pennsylvania, sports betting made New Jersey’s recovery efforts all the more successful. The state has well and truly earned its sports betting crown, securing $10.9bn in wagering handle for the full-year 2021. That represents an increase of 82% year-on-year and a new highest yearly total for any state in the US. Revenue reached $815.8m.

As for iGaming, the state saw an increase of 41% from 2020. This is perhaps the most telling figure of the state’s improvement, with iGaming completely unaffected by the impact of the pandemic in 2020. Internet gambling operators generated win of $1.37bn for the year.

Undoubtedly, Atlantic City’s casinos are back on the path to success, and they will also get some relief thanks to a new bill. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed tax break legislation last month. Proponents have argued it will prevent the closure of four of Atlantic City’s gambling venues.

Nevada leads the way in recovery

Where better to end 2021’s summary than with the most profitable gambling market in the US. This time last year, VSO News reported on the three record lows hit by Nevada’s gambling market in its December 2020 results. This included the lowest monthly casino revenue since 1997 and the worst full month for the Las Vegas Strip in 27 years.

Governor Sisolak reignited the hopes of Vegas casino owners last year however by firing up the bright lights of Las Vegas once more. All Nevada casinos returned to full occupancy levels from June 1, allowing the state to post record-breaking numbers as gamblers returned to the casino capital in their droves.

revenue grew 12% from the $12bn total generated in 2019

According to figures released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board just this Thursday, the state saw gaming revenue of $13.4bn in 2021. That’s a new record, breaking the previous benchmark of $12.8bn set more than a decade ago in 2007. Not only that, but revenue grew 12% from the $12bn total generated in 2019 before the pandemic.

A common theme with top US markets, sports betting contributed in a significant way to Nevada’s recovery. Betting handle reached $8.1bn for the full year, with sportsbooks securing revenue of $445.1m from that total. Around 65% of the state’s total betting handle came through mobile sportsbooks.

Since Las Vegas’ early beginnings in the early 1900s, Nevada has led the way in the US gambling sector. Now, it seems like the same is true for pandemic recovery, with the gambling hub on track for greatness.