COVID-19 has had a staggering impact on just about every kind of business in the United States. And while the disease has infected just over one percent of the American population, nobody in the country is immune to its effects.
Casinos, largely thought to be recession-proof and depression-proof, have been especially hard hit, with hundreds of thousands of employees furloughed, laid off, or otherwise displaced as venues nationwide have shuttered operations.
For most casinos in the US, closed doors means no revenue. Zero. Zip.
And that’s a problem.
Indeed, there is a good chance that many casinos will not be reopening when the coronavirus scare is finally put to bed.
In Las Vegas, at least four notable venues have officially suspended operations for at least the next year, and in harder-hit markets, like Tunica Resorts in Mississippi, the strain might be survivable. Once. But the next time a pandemic situation rolls around – especially if this mass flu hysteria becomes the “new normal” as so many lawmakers suggest – such regions are effectively doomed.
However, there is a solution: legal online gambling.
Unfortunately, domestic online casino gaming is legal only in four US states. These are Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and West Virginia (which launched its industry just last week).
To hammer home the point of how resilient online gambling is, all you have to do is look at New Jersey’s online casino numbers from the last three months.
But if you want more evidence, Pennsylvania’s numbers are even more staggering.
In Pennsylvania, gross gaming revenues are down year over year, as all 12 of the state’s physical brick-and-mortar casinos have been closed for most of 2020.
Of course, before online gaming, those revenues would be close to nil. However, because PA has 10 mobile casino operators, the drop in business has been nowhere near as significant as it otherwise might.
To wit, through the end of June 2020, Pennsylvania online gambling has earned over $240 million in revenue.
From March to April, iGaming revenue in PA was up 73%. From April to May, the market grew by an additional 30%. In June, the state saw more than $50 million in Internet gambling income, which is a 1500% increase in the market compared to online gaming’s first full month of operations in August 2019.
Naturally, the most popular game during this spike has been online slots, which is always the most popular game, lockdowns or not. But the key point is that – during the COVID-19 casino closures in Pennsylvania – slots have grown more than any other gambling market. Since March, online slots in PA have accounted for close to 75% of all iGaming revenues.
Of course, this isn’t just about making gambling more accessible to We The People during hard times of hunkering down and socially distancing. This is crucially important to the states themselves.
In one year of online gambling in Pennsylvania (during six months of which it has been the only option), the state has raked in about $100 million in taxes. Those taxes, naturally, are critical during the best of times. During a pandemic, they’re astronomically more important still.
In terms of total casino revenue (including retail and online gambling), PA has seen a year-over-year decline of about 18%, with operators hauling in $2.7 billion compared to the $3.3 billion they earned during last fiscal year.
But compared to Nevada, where gambling revenue is down 45.2% year-over-year, PA is sitting pretty.
Indeed, in the months of April and May, Las Vegas casino income was down 99.41% and 99.27%, respectively. Ouch.
Whether or not legislators and regulators will get together to legalize local online casino gambling in all or most of the states that offer land-based options remains to be seen.
Additionally, whether or not all states actually want online play is also a question.
Nevada is strongly opposed to online gambling simply because it is a massive tourist destination, and the industry’s linchpins are the giant gambling houses and casino resorts up and down the Vegas Strip.
Online gambling could move tourism centers away from the region, leaving the most famous casinos in the world as little more than so-called white elephants.
One bout of pandemic shutdowns and quarantines may not be enough to convince NV that online is the way to go. Yes, they sure could have used mobile gambling during the first half of 2020, but there’s an argument to be made for holding out and waiting on things to blow over.
Nevertheless, unless you live in the four states with legal local online gambling, none of this actually matters. You can’t hop online and wager with these operators unless you’re physically inside their states’ borders, so for most American players, the point is moot.
Fortunately, you do have options – and very good ones.
If you live in the US and don’t have local online gambling at your disposal, you can still take advantage of international online gambling sites. There are several reputable sites operating outside of US jurisdiction that take US residents from most or all states, and there are no federal laws barring you from using these to risk and win real money.
Better yet, they offer things no domestic online operator does, like all-in-one portals for hundreds of electronic casino games, live dealer games, bingo, keno, international sportsbooks, global racebooks, lotteries, and more.
These casinos are all mobile compatible, there are no geofencing restrictions, and you can deposit using just about any method you wish, including Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is something no domestic operator accepts, and it makes handling your online gambling finances safer and more secure than even the best local venues can guarantee.
Nevertheless, while we prefer the offshore gambling experience and find it to be more accessible and offer higher value in terms of variety and betting odds on sporting events and horse races, we do hope that state lawmakers in America figure this thing out and allow their residents to gamble domestically from the comfort of their own homes.
But we wouldn’t bet on it.