The ongoing pandemic has put massive dents in the revenues of several industries this year, especially in the entertainment segment – and one of the hardest-hit was the gambling industry. Casinos across the country shut down in the spring, then reopened at a reduced capacity, making it harder for them to recover. To do so, the industry will need a helping hand from the government, American Gaming Association President Bill Miller says.
The worst year in ages
The year 2020 started out promising for the US gambling industry, with its revenues showing double-digit growth in the first two months of the year compared to the similar time period of 2019. Then the pandemic hit, shutting down virtually the entire industry, reducing revenues by more than 90%. While the revenues do show some recovery as we speak, with 90% of casinos across the country reopened, they are still way beyond last year’s levels.
The AGA’s August revenue tracker report shows that the industry’s total revenue is still almost 40% below last year’s level, with both slots and table games feeling the pressure of reduced attendance.
Sports and online soar
Sports betting has followed pretty much the same curve – with sports across the world shutting down for the better part of spring and early summer – but recovered as sports returned, growing by more than 30% this year. Sports betting handle has nearly doubled in August due to the month’s busy schedule.
Online casinos, in turn, have seen perhaps their best year in the US yet, with their revenues soaring by a staggering 203.3% year-on-year, to close to $1 billion. Online gaming outlets like the JackpotCity online casino are pandemic-proof as they don’t rely on in-person attendance at all. The JackpotCity offers its users a game variety comparable to those of brick-and-mortar casinos while allowing players to stay safe and virus-free at home.
iGaming has already shown some growth early in the year but with the lockdowns, it truly found its place, serving as a viable alternative for many.
In need of a helping hand
“Gaming has never experienced a disruption like COVID-19,” AGA President Bill Miller said in his State of the Casinos speech at the 2020 G2E conference (held online-only because of the ongoing pandemic). Not only the businesses that have seen their revenues drop significantly this year that have suffered because of this massive disruption but also the 1.8 million-strong workforce supported by the industry, not to mention the small businesses that depend on the industry to survive.
The casino industry has managed to access some pandemic relief funds this year, Miller said, but it’s vital for it to be included in similar schemes in the future. Also, casinos need liability protection and tax relief to help save jobs and a faster switch to digital payments that would help further reduce the risk their visitors are exposed to by reducing their contact with cash – the item hardest to disinfect.