Sportsbook Casino Breaks Records in 2020

Sports wagering grows to nearly $550 million in December while online casinos topped $70 million in revenue for first time, according to PlayPennsylvania Breaks Records in 2020 Breaks Records in 2020

Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks and online casinos returned to their record-breaking ways in December, setting fresh highs while combining for more than $100 million in revenue. The late-year push put the state’s sports betting handle at more than $3.5 billion for 2020, a shocking total in a year when four months of major U.S. sports were canceled and retail outlets have been shuttered, according to analysts from PlayPennsylvania, which provides news and analysis of the state’s gaming industry. 

“Online betting, both on sports and online casino games, have been a crucial silver lining to what was overall a rough year for Pennsylvania’s gaming industry,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for “Obviously, the growth online has come unfortunately as the retail market has faced pandemic-related shutdowns. But without the increase in online revenue, there is no telling how much weaker a position the entire industry would be in right now.”

After a one-month retreat below $500 million, Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks accepted $548.6 million in wagers in December, according to official data released Tuesday. December’s bets were up 11.5% from $491.9 million in November and topped the record $525.8 million record set in October. 

Taxable operator revenue hit $34.1 million, less than the record $37.4 million in November, which generated $11.6 million in state taxes and $681,191 in local share assessments. 

Compared with December 2019, December’s handle was up 60.1% from $342.6 million while taxable revenue rose a whopping 199.4% from $11.4 million.

For all of 2020, Pennsylvania’s retail and online sportsbooks produced:

  • $3.6 billion in wagers, up 140.3% from $1.5 billion in 2019
  • $3.3 billion in online wagering, up 208.4% from $1.1 billion in 2019. 
  • $189.7 million in taxable revenue, up 125.5% from $84.1 million in 2019.
  • $64.5 million in state taxes.

Only New Jersey, which shattered a U.S. record with more than $6 billion in bets in 2020, and Nevada have collected more in bets this year than Pennsylvania. But Pennsylvania’s grip on third place is being challenged by Illinois, which reached $434.3 million in October, the market’s fourth full month of operation.

“Pennsylvania and Illinois make for such an interesting comparison, because their markets are so similar, including a nearly identical population,” said Valerie Cross, analyst for PlayPennsylvania. “Pennsylvania is still the more mature market, though, and is well poised to shatter just about every record it set in 2020.”

With retail sportsbooks shut down for most of the month, 97.6%, or $548.6 million, of all bets were made online in December, which was up from 91% in November. FanDuel Sportsbook/Valley Forge Casino became the first to top $200 million in online wagers in a month with $207.6 million in December, up 17.5% from $176.7 million wagered in November. Those bets produced $7.1 million in taxable revenue, down from $15.1 million in November. DraftKings/The Meadows remained in second place with $130.9 million in bets, up from $109.9 million in November. That yielded $5.4 million in taxable revenue. 

Penn National continues to make its own dent in the market. The Hollywood Casino license, which includes Penn National’s Barstool-branded app and the recently launched BetMGM app, grew to $71.8 million in bets from $55.7 million. That produced a market-leading $13.9 million in taxable revenue.

The leaders were followed in December by:

  • Fox Bet/Mount Airy ($28.9 million handle, up from $28.1 million; $1.9 million, up from $1.6 million)
  • BetRivers/Rivers-Pittsburgh ($26.8 million handle, down from $28.1 million; $1.6 million revenue, up/down from $975,843)
  • Parx Casino ($23.7 million handle, up from $19.4 million; $2 million revenue, down from $2.1 million)
  • PlaySugarHouse/Rivers-Philadelphia ($21.8 million handle, up from $19.4 million; $1 million in revenue, up from $917,164)
  • Unibet/Mohegan Sun Pocono ($8.9 million handle, up from $8.2 million; $86,200 revenue, up/down from $194,793)
  • Caesars/Harrah’s ($1.4 million handle, up from $1.1 million; $15,700 revenue, down from $58,141)
  • BetAmerica/Presque Isle Downs ($1.5 million handle, up from $957,165; -$7,840 revenue, down from $8,632)

“The successful launch of Barstool proves there is still some room for growth in the Pennsylvania market, both in terms of overall market size and in introducing new operators,” Gouker said. “To that point, the addition of another major player such as BetMGM makes Pennsylvania one of the most competitive markets in the U.S. That should bode well for the year ahead.”

Retail sportsbooks, which were closed on Dec. 12, fell to $13.4 million in bets from $45.1 million in December 2019. Sportsbooks won $1.2 million on those bets, down from $3 million in December 2019. The top retail sportsbook was Parx Casino with $4.3 million in bets.

Online casinos surge

Online casinos and poker rooms reached $70 million in monthly revenue for the first time. Online casinos and poker took in $71.6 million in gross operator revenue, shattering the record $59.8 million set in November. That amounted to $2.3 million per day over the 31 days of the month, up from $2 million per day over the 30 days of November. December’s revenue generated $19.3 million in state taxes and another $9.8 million in local share assessments and county grants.

Online casino games and poker, launched in late 2019, have been a boon to Pennsylvania, particularly after retail casinos were shuttered in March. With its 12 casinos closed for months, online casinos produced $680.2 million in revenue and $154.6 million in state taxes for the year.

“The late-2019 launch of online casinos proved to be fortuitous timing,” Cross said. “The revenue lost from casino closures could not have been foreseen and not be completely replaced, but there is no doubt the launch of online gaming helped stem the losses and steady the industry.”

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