COVID-19 Drives U.S. 2020 Gaming Revenue to Lowest Level in 17 Years
February 18, 2021
The American Gaming Association (AGA) has released its Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker for 2020, and it illustrates the full extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on U.S. gaming.
In total, commercial gaming generated US$30bn in 2020, down more than 31 per cent year-on-year. That represents the first market contraction for the U.S. gaming industry since 2014 and the lowest gaming revenue total since 2003. In 2003, the commercial industry generated $28.7 billion from legal gaming in 11 states, compared to nearly three times as many jurisdictions in 2020.
The year did end with some positive momentum in Q4, though, with a 1.7 per cent spike in revenue over Q3 2020. However, the nearly US$9.2bn in revenue still represented a 17% year-over-year decrease.
The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the gaming industry overshadows previous slumps, notes the AGA. During the Great Recession of 2007-09 gaming revenue decreased by a comparatively mild 8.4 percent during the span of two years.
The AGA adds that the gaming industry was primed for another record year before COVID-19 hit. In January and February, revenue grew 11.4 percent over the same period in 2019.
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 per cent year-on-year, and iGaming revenue nearly tripling to almost $1.6bn.
AGA President and CEO Bill Miller, who predicted an encouraging 2021 to come, tated: “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 per cent of normal operating days throughout 2020 due mainly to mandated COVID-19 closures. 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.
Miller noted the impact of COVID-19 on the casino industry extends beyond gaming revenue. “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.”
There are bright spots to look forward too in 2021. 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 per cent of future casino visitors agree the industry has done a good job at safely reopening.