The full force of the COVID pandemic on US commercial gaming revenue in 2020 has been revealed this week with the publication of the American Gaming Association‘s (AGA) Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker.
In total, commercial gaming generated $30bn in 2020, down more than 31% year-on-year, marking the first market contraction for the US gaming industry since 2014 and the lowest gaming revenue total since 2003.
On a brighter note, the year ended with some positive momentum in Q4, with a 1.7% uplift in revenue over Q3 2020. The nearly $9.2bn in revenue still represented a 17% year-over-year decrease.
Gaming’s performance in 2020 was buoyed to some degree by the growth of new gaming options, with legal sports betting garnering an all-time high of $1.5bn in revenue, up 69% year-on-year, and igaming revenue nearly tripling to almost $1.6bn.
But there was no sugar-coating of the situation from AGA President and CEO Bill Miller who stated: “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.”
Commercial casinos lost 27% of normal operating days throughout 2020 because of mandated COVID-19 closures and, to a lesser degree, disruptions caused by hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. Commercial casinos were open (with capacity restrictions) for an estimated 124,882 days in 2020 instead of 170,484 days had the industry not been shuttered.
The impact of COVID-19 on the casino industry extends beyond gaming revenue. Live entertainment, tourism, and meetings and conventions – which make up more than half of casino resort revenue in tourist destinations like the Las Vegas Strip – all came to a standstill in 2020 and are only now starting to reopen.
Miller added: “Hospitality and travel have been among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. I am encouraged by recent bipartisan momentum on Capitol Hill to support these industries, which are crucial to our nation’s full economic recovery.”
Since the reopening of casino properties in mid-2020, the industry has consistently demonstrated its ability to safely return to business, with 911 out of 998 US casinos open today. AGA research shows about one-in-three American adults plan to visit a casino in 2021 – near the highest rate since the AGA began tracking last March. About 80% of future casino visitors agree the industry has done a good job at safely reopening.
In a separate statement, Miller noted: “This data provides yet another reminder of the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has taken on our industry, without even accounting for the lost revenue in live entertainment, hotel bookings, and meetings and conventions.
“As the AGA advocates for additional federal relief, we will continue to tell this story to policymakers while also highlighting the vital role gaming’s recovery plays in communities across the country. Despite these numbers, I remain optimistic for the year ahead. We have demonstrated leadership on responsible reopening, with 911 of 997 US casinos currently open.”
He concluded: “Before the pandemic, the commercial gaming market had experienced five straight years of growth and January and February 2020 were following a similar trend. With the expansion of sports betting – a bright spot over the last year – as well as the accelerating rollout of vaccines, I’m confident that 2021 will see a great recovery for our industry, employees, and communities across the country.”