The 2020 Poker Boom: With Sports Gone, Pennsylvanians Turn to Online Gaming

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Photo credit: Dmitry FeoktistovTASS via Getty Images. Pictured: Deck of poker cards

May 18, 2020, 05:24 PM EDT

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released April revenue numbers for the state.

As expected, revenue for anything related to sports — sports betting and fantasy contests — was way down. Sportsbooks made just below $2.9 million in April compared to $4.2 million in April 2019.

That understates the decline, though: Look at January 2020 — just a few months before the coronavirus pandemic really hit the U.S. — and the difference is stark. In that month, sportsbooks pulled in a whopping $22.8 million in revenue.

The total handle on sports betting was $46.0 million in April compared to $348.4 million in January.

Casinos lost an immense amount of revenue by closing its doors: It made no money on slots or table games in April, of course, compared to $190.3 million on slots in January 2020 and $72.6 million on table games.

It’s not all bad news for casinos and sportsbooks, though: Online casino games, including online poker, was legalized by the state in 2017.

And those things have taken off during this time of social distancing: In April, companies brought in a whopping $27.3 million on online slots and $10.5 million on online table games; compare those numbers to $7.2 million and $4.6 million, respectively, in January of this year.

The raw numbers are immense: In April, $757.5 million was bet on online slots and $632.4 million was bet on online table games.

And poker continues to boom in Pennsylvania as it has in New Jersey. In April, gaming companies brought in $5.3 million in revenue on online poker compared to $2.2 million in January — a 144% growth since the start of the year. Of note, poker is offered by only one casino currently.

There’s room for optimism with sports as well. The UFC, NASCAR and Bundesliga returned this week, as did live golf with the TaylorMade Driving Relief. All of those continue this week, and the PGA Tour, other soccer leagues and more sports are slated to return in early-to-mid June.

April 2020 Pennsylvania Gaming and Betting Revenue

Category January 2020 Revenue April 2020 Revenue
Slots $190,311,646 $0
Table Games $72,553,994 $0
Fantasy $2,064,773 $167,254
Sports Betting $22,841,192 $2,883,471
Online Slots $7,192,192 $27,324,955
Online Table Games $4,608,081 $10,489,621
Online Poker $2,157,266 $5,253,304

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